SpaceX's Moon Mission Doesn't Mean NASA is Giving Up on the SLS

In a statement last night, following SpaceX's surprising announcement that it would send two private citizens to the moon and back, NASA both congratulated Elon Musk's private spaceflight company and assured the public that no, it wasn't going to toss all of its space-eggs into one basket. "We will work closely with SpaceX to ensure it safely meets the contractual obligations to return the launch of astronauts to USA soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station". This first demonstration mission will be in automatic mode, without people on board.

Plans call for SpaceX's two-person lunar venture to fly some 300,000 to 400,000 miles (480,000 to 640,000 km) from Earth past the moon before Earth's gravity pulls the spacecraft back into the atmosphere for a parachute landing.

"This should be a really exciting mission that hopefully gets the world really excited about sending people into deep space again", Musk said.

Later this year, as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX will launch its Crew Dragon (Dragon Version 2) spacecraft to the International Space Station. "But they're coming into this with their eyes open", said Musk, adding that the pair will receive "extensive" training before the flight. A subsequent mission with crew is expected to fly in the second quarter of 2018. It would mark the farthest that humans have gone from the Earth into space in almost 40 years. "SpaceX is notorious or notable, depending on how you want to think about it, for setting very ambitious schedules and usually not meeting them".

The moon mission vehicle is created to be automated, Musk told reporters, but the passengers will be trained in emergency procedures in case there is a problem.

"NASA would have priority in any lunar mission", Musk said, per the LA Times.

Aldrin then went on to say he supports space tourism and possibly establishing a base on the moon.

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