When you think of who gets to travel into space, you're likely picturing an astronaut. You don't often think that your cousin, family friend, or next-door-neighbor is going to be the next person sent into orbit. That may change soon, though. Thanks to a new partnership, SpaceX plans to soon send regular people into space. With hopes to do so as early as next year, the company is definitely setting an ambitious timeline.
Founded by Elon Musk in 2002, SpaceX's ultimate goal is to "revolutionize space technology" and "[enable] people to live on other planets." Obviously, that would involve sending regular people into space, and it's something Musk has mentioned before.
Given that, the company's new partnership isn't a surprise. On Tuesday, Space Adventures, an American space tourism company, announced it was teaming up with SpaceX. Together, the two companies will send up to four individuals into space using SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and its Crew Dragon vehicle.
If everything goes well, this would be the first "orbital space tourism experience provided entirely with American technology," according to Space Adventure's statement.
“This historic mission will forge a path to making spaceflight possible for all people who dream of it, and we are pleased to work with the Space Adventures’ team on the mission,” Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, said in a statement.
Spokespeople from Space Adventures told Space.com that the mission could launch as early as late 2021. Engadget reported that those chosen will train for a few weeks in the U.S. before launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida. From there, they'll only spend five days in orbit.
Although the short orbit doesn't make the proposed flight any less historic, the timeline should be met with a little bit of skepticism for a few reasons. To start, Space Adventures bragged that the trip "will provide up to four individuals with the opportunity to break the world altitude record for private citizen spaceflight."
Although Space Adventure didn't mention just how far it wants to send people, it seems that the companies are aiming to go beyond the International Space Station which sits at about 250 miles above Earth. Space Adventure's chairman Eric Anderson said, "This Dragon mission will be a special experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity – capable of reaching twice the altitude of any prior civilian astronaut mission or space station visitor."
Shooting for the stars is all good and well but there's a bigger problem: Crew Dragon hasn't actually transported any people yet. In March 2019, the space vehicle completed the first leg of its first journey to the International Space Station. It only carried 400 pounds of supplies and a human-shaped Ripley test device.
There's a big difference between transporting supplies and transporting actual living, breathing human beings — especially when those people are not going to be as highly trained as astronauts. But with even NASA racing to send tourists into space, it seems a lot of companies are too caught up in the thrill of doing something new to wonder if they should.