Dear 100 Hour Board,
SpaceX says two people (as yet not identified to the public) are going to go on a trip around the moon and back at the end of 2018. What do you predict will actually have happened with respect to this by the end of 2018?
Dear Paranoid Android,
This is interesting! For those who aren't in the loop, SpaceX recently announced they are sending two people on a trip around the moon by the end of 2018. What's particularly notable about this claim is that they're not sending trained astronauts. Rather, they're sending two people on a private space ride who paid, rather than trained, for the privilege. This will make them potentially some of the first "space tourists," which opens up questions about whether space tourism is currently possible or even a good idea.
Will this actually happen? It's easy to look at SpaceX's claims and dismiss them as outrageous. After all, in 1957, a famous radio broadcaster predicted that man reaching the moon could never occur and that any scientific predictions "[constituted] a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne." Yet unless you're a conspiracy theorist (like my dad), most people believe that we did just that about ten years later. SpaceX may have wild goals, but they do have impressive technology and can boast NASA as one of their clients. Is it improbable that SpaceX will send two people around the moon by the end of 2018? Maybe, but it's not impossible.
SpaceX isn't the first company to offer private moon trips before, though. The Virginia-based space tourism company Space Adventures has made similar, seemingly-groundbreaking promises before. Although Space Adventures has sent the first private customers to the International Space Station, their current spacecraft models are unfit for a journey around the moon. Their (and SpaceX's) announcements could be little more than a placeholder that announces the companies working towards that goal.
Even if they do succeed, their passengers are in for a bumpy ride: they can expect days of nausea, puffiness, and potential radiation exposure. That's if everything goes right. Historically, astronauts have been physically fit and heavily-trained when they venture to space. SpaceX is sending two normal people, potentially with medical conditions that haven't been seen in a space setting. If something goes wrong, like spacecraft failure, these passengers could be untrained and in more serious peril than past astronauts.
I hope they succeed, though. At this rate, we're never going to have starships exploring the galaxies by 2265. What's the point of mankind, I ask you, if not to change Star Trek from a sci-fi series into a documentary?
Live Long and Prosper,