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SpaceX says it won’t send space tourists around the moon just yet

Two space tourists who were looking forward to being blasted toward the moon by a SpaceX rocket some time this year will now have to wait until at least 2019.

SpaceX spokesperson James Gleeson confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that the trip around the moon, first announced last year, has been postponed. He didn’t offer a specific date for when it might take place.

Despite the setback, Gleeson confirmed the company, run by billionaire Elon Musk, “is still planning to fly private individuals around the moon and there is growing interest from many customers.”

SpaceX hasn’t offered any reason for the postponement, but the Journal cites “technical and production challenges” as likely causes.

Such delays are par for the course when it comes to missions of this magnitude, and it certainly isn’t the first time Musk’s space company has had to play around with launch forecasts. SpaceX’s massive Falcon Heavy rocket, for example, only got off the ground in February following a number of delays over several years.

Speaking of the Heavy, that’s the rocket that’s set to take the pair of unnamed tourists into orbit at the start of their one-week journey around the moon, if and when it happens.

The mission, announced to great fanfare by Musk in August 2017, would be the first manned trip to the moon since the last Apollo outing in 1972. Lift-off is set to be from the very same launch pad used by the Apollo program for its lunar missions: Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The two high-paying astronaut wannabes approached Musk about the possibility of a moon trip prior to the company making any plans for such a trip.

“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 said in a message at the time of the announcement.

If the mission gets off the ground, the two space tourists will travel to the moon in SpaceX’s Dragon V2 spacecraft, which is yet to be thoroughly tested. The spacecraft won’t land on the lunar surface, but it will get close as it circles it.

For now, though, they’ll have to sit tight as SpaceX continues with preparations for what could be a 2019 moon mission.

Other private space companies — Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic among them — are also prepping tourism trips toward space as part of a regular commercial service. The suborbital missions would take regular folks — well, regular folks with plenty of money in the bank — on short trips to the edge of space, about 62 miles up, where they’ll be able to enjoy spectacular views and several minutes of weightlessness before returning to Earth. Both companies are hoping to launch services in the next 12 months, though as SpaceX’s experience shows, the wait could turn out to be longer.

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