SpaceX might have just announced that the first lunar vacation will be happening by 2023, but the only people to actually walk on moondust have been NASA astronauts, and it looks like it will stay that way.
Just launching humans into space is dangerous enough. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and the artists who will fly with him on this out-of-this-world getaway will take that risk to enjoy a view that no one has seen from a spaceship window since 1972. It will probably be worth whatever undisclosed amount he paid, but there are serious reasons no amount of money could ever get his footprints on the moon’s surface.
The launch is only part of the inevitable survival challenge that comes with a voyage to our satellite. SpaceX will have to ensure its BFR will keep passengers alive while ensuring it takes off with a boost from a rocket massive enough to push it into lunar orbit (that part shouldn’t be an issue).
You would probably think an easy solution to moonwalking would be landing the BFR directly on the moon. SpaceX has pulled off many Earth landings that have had everyone following the descent of those spacecraft holding their breath. If visionary founder and CEO Elon Musk has his way, he will land humans on Mars, though probably not for leisure. All that backup makes a landing seem possible — but not so fast.
When the Apollo missions reached the moon, two of the three astronauts aboard had to climb out of the Command Module into a cramped Lunar Lander, navigating through its tiny, triangular window while the third astronaut would wait to pick them up after the moonwalk. NASA seriously considered creating a Command Module that would touch down on the moon directly, but a vehicle able to land and blast off again, never mind propel itself through space and back to our planet without getting demolished during re-entry. It would have to be a leviathan.
This is why NASA left those plans behind decades ago. Though SpaceX has released a hypothetical video (above) showing a direct BFR moon landing, the company has never disclosed how exactly that would be possible.
Could SpaceX build a lunar lander? Technically, it could, but NASA didn’t have to worry about luxury accommodations when it sent experienced astronauts to explore the moon. So long as astronauts reached their destination safely and were able to carry out the mission ahead, accommodations didn’t need to be too plush.
SpaceX has to worry even more about the comfort and safety of its travelers, because not only will they be expecting something high-class, but no amount of training can possibly put even the richest citizens on the same level with legit astronauts. In the end, that makes the most convincing argument for keeping Maezawa and his friends in orbit.
Even without a moonwalk, this trip is going to make Twitter explode.