SpaceX announces plans to send two people around the moon in 2018

Elon Musk’s SpaceX to fly private tourists around the moon in 2018

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks after unveiling the Dragon V2 spacecraft in Hawthorne, California May 29, 2014.

Elon Musk, the brash inventor and founder of SpaceX, has just announced he plans to send private citizens on a trip around the moon next year.

The passengers have "already paid a significant deposit" for the mission, SpaceX said in a statement today.

The individuals would launch on the Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39A and go around the moon, but not land on the surface.

There's no set date for the launch yet, and SpaceX does have a history of running behind schedule.

Musk said SpaceX was approached by "two private individuals" who know one another, whom he did not identify.

"NASA always has first priority", Musk said, "so if NASA decides to have the first mission of this nature be a NASA mission, then of course NASA would take priority".

This mission would take about a week.

The Crew Dragon is an automated vehicle; the system will operate autonomously for most of the flight. A subsequent mission with a crew is expected to fly in 2018.

"Later this year, as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, we will launch our Crew Dragon (Dragon Version 2) spacecraft to the International Space Station". Musk has tweeted that, despite the report, SpaceX will be ready. Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow.

"NASA always has first priority, so if NASA decides to have the first mission of this nature be a NASA mission", Musk said.

"Next year is going to be the big year for carrying people", says Musk. "This should be a really exciting mission, that will get the world really excited about deep space".