The two newly-qualified austonauts whose names are kept secret will conduct health and fitness tests and start training later this year.

It is time for great adventures! SpaceX is organizing the first privately funded tourist flight beyond the orbit of the International Space Station – two passengers will go on a tour around the moon using a spaceship under development for NASA astronauts and a heavy-lift rocket yet to be flown.

Elon Musk, Space Exploration Technologies Chief Executive, has unveiled that the flight is scheduled for late 2018.

“We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission. Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration”, SpaceX stated.

“We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year. Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow. Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results.”

The company preferred to keep names of newly-qualified astronauts secret except saying that it is “nobody from Hollywood.” Neither did SpaceX revealed how much the trip would cost.

“I think there’s a market for one or two of these per year,” he said, estimating that space tourist fares charged by SpaceX could eventually contribute 10 to 20 percent of the company’s revenue.

According to the announcement, a spaceship will fly some 300,000 to 400,000 miles (480,000 to 640,000 km) from Earth past the moon before Earth’s gravity pulls the spacecraft back into the atmosphere for a parachute landing.

SpaceX has a $10 billion backlog of about 70 missions for NASA and commercial customers. The company is backed by Alphabet’s Google Inc and Fidelity Investments – totally, they have invested $1 billion to Musk’s firm.

SpaceX is not the first company developing commercial passenger spaceflight services.

Virgin Galactic, an offshoot of Richard Branson’s London-based Virgin Group, has designed a six-passenger, two-pilot spaceship to carry paying customers about 62 miles (100 km) above Earth, where they will be able to experience brief microgravity and see Earth’s curvature against the blackness of space. The spaceship is being tested now. Reportedly, tickets will cost $250,000 each.

From the very launch of SpaceX in 2002, the company intended to organize crewed missions to Mars. To make the dream come true, SpaceX drives down the cost of spaceflight by reusing rockets for more than one launch.

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