I just signed up for a trip around the moon, tentatively scheduled for sometime in 2023.
Sponsored by insanely awesome Japanese billionaire, art collector, and soon-to-be civilian astronaut Yusaku Maezawa, the SpaceX “dearMoon” mission will select eight members of the global public to join him on what promises to be quite a ride.
“I’m inviting you to join me on this mission,” Maezawa said in his announcement video on Tuesday, and within minutes I’d provided SpaceX and Maezawa with my information on the off-chance what their crew really needs is a hard-drinking opinion writer who has spent his entire life dreaming of space travel.
Needless to say, if successful, dearMoon will be the first privately sponsored, launched, and crewed mission into lunar orbit.
The signup period ends on March 14, followed by an initial screening, assignment, and online interviews beginning on March 21. dearMoon hopes to have the final interviews and medical checkups completed by the end of May.
On the off chance that I make it that far, here’s to hoping my liver makes the cut. I’ve had plans to go to the Moon since not long after the Apollo program was prematurely terminated.
To be fair, Musk has been known to be a little optimistic with his timelines. Fully automated driving for his Tesla line of electric cars always seems to be just one more development cycle away, and SpaceX has suffered a few delays over the years. But watching the rapid progress being made with the Starship prototypes over the last three months gives hope that Musk and Maezawa might not miss the 2023 deadline by very much.
The first two Starship prototypes crashed and burned spectacularly on landing, but only after having successfully performed the brand-new “belly flop” maneuver that the dearMoon crew will need to execute to land safely back on Earth. The third Starship prototype to fly actually made a successful landing on Wednesday, only to blow up a few minutes later. The cause is being investigated, and given SpaceX’s policy of rapid iteration, will likely be fixed in short order.
NASA, on the other hand, just gave up plans to return humans to the lunar surface by 2024 but hasn’t yet said what the new target date might be.
To return to the Moon under the Artemis program, NASA is depending on the troubled Boeing corporation to get the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) working. But after ten years and a massive $20 billion spent, not a single SLS rocket has yet to achieve orbit — or even finish a successful test firing.
SpaceX spent a very small fraction of that amount successfully developing the Falcon line of reusable lift vehicles. SLS, assuming it ever flies, will cost around $2 billion per launch, and each rocket is fully disposable.
Artemis also relies on Lockheed-Martin’s Orion crew capsule, which has yet to complete a crewed test flight.
So it seems that unless Congress stops requiring NASA to keep feeding the Space Launch System that might never actually launch, then the next footprints left on the Moon might be Elon Musk’s… or maybe even yours.
For now, I’m hoping for a one-in-billion chance to nab a seat on board Maezawa’s wild dearMoon mission and become one of the first people to see the far side of Luna with his own eyes since the last Apollo mission flew nearly 50 years ago.
I barely slept last night at the prospect.
My wife, clearly better at calculating the odds of me getting selected than I am, was nonplussed at the news that I could be risking a trip from the Earth to the Moon years before the mortgage is paid off or the kids are done with school.
How about you? You have until March 14 to take your chance on becoming an astronaut.
Would you take the chance?
If so, what are you waiting for?