SpaceX made the much-anticipated announcement of who will be the first tourist to the moon. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will be going, if SpaceX can ever get there.
SpaceX already has delayed the lift-off of its BRG, which is the rocket that will hurdle Maezawa on his way. The plans involve a launch and pattern not unlike those of Apollo missions. The rocket lifts off and drops its booster. Gravity slings it toward the moon, which it circles, and then gravity launches it back. As reverse thrusters slow it down, the rocket itself lands back on Earth. It seems simple enough on paper.
However, the flight is not made on paper. SpaceX has had to delay its lunar mission once, until next year at the earliest. And the current schedule is for the mission to happen in 2023.
Several experts have said that communications with the vehicle will be a challenge. So will the heat generated on the vehicle as its makes reentry. These are part of a long laundry list of problems SpaceX must overcome.
SpaceX does not have the huge budget NASA had when it launched Apollo rockets in the 1960s. This level of financial commitment and the huge staff required for Apollo won’t be available to SpaceX. The company could argue 1960s technology is ancient. Nevertheless, the assets NASA had are unmatchable. SpaceX may not have the money to complete all the work to make the mission possible. Its founder, Elon Musk, has faced funding trouble in the past.
Musk has a habit of missing dates. He also has a habit of overstating his plans for the future. One example is that he said he could take electric car company Tesla private. His recent behavior makes the reliability of his plans more doubtful.
Will SpaceX ever get a man to the moon? The hurdles are high and the timeline is shaky. Maezawa may never get there.