PHOTO: Elon Musk poses with a version of the Dragon Spacecraft in 2014.
(Reuters: Mario Anzuoni)
The time has probably come to wonder aloud if US billionaire Elon Musk is really a Bond villain.
His company, SpaceX, has just announced plans to fly two private citizens into space next year, for a trip around the Moon.
SpaceX said the two space tourists had already paid a "significant deposit" on the trip.
"We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year," the company said.
But of course they are not going to stop there.
"Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow," it said.
How are they going to get there?
SpaceX said it would use the Dragon capsule it's been building for the mission, strapped to its Falcon heavy rocket.
Here's the schedule:
- SpaceX is going to launch an unmanned demonstration mission later in 2017
- In the second quarter of 2018, another test with people on board will happen
- SpaceX will then begin contracted missions to the International Space Station for NASA
- Once all that's complete, the private tourist trips begin
How long will it take?
About a week. Or somewhere roughly between 482,000 or 643,000 kilometres.
Apollo missions took about three days to reach the Moon.
The quickest trip was the New Horizons probe, which made it to the Moon in 8 hours and 35 minutes, according to Space.com.
It'll just be a flyby, with no plans to stop on the Moon's surface. So it's a look-but-don't-touch kind of thing.
How much did it cost?
We don't know.
Mr Musk declined to tell reporters when asked.
He also didn't name the customers, but said they knew each other and that they were:
"Nobody from Hollywood."
"I think they are entering this with their eyes open, knowing that there is some risk here," Mr Musk said.
"They're certainly not naive, and we'll do everything we can to minimise that risk, but it's not zero. But they're coming into this with their eyes open."
Right. So how do we know Elon Musk is a Bond villain?
Perhaps the better question is: how can we be sure he isn't?
He's got private space ships, electric cars and a company researching artificial intelligence.
He's also building a Hyperloop, a vacuum tube that fires tubes of people along it at the speed of sound with the help of magnetic levitation.
What could go wrong?
PHOTO: Elon Musk. Billionaire, philanthropist, Bond villain? (Reuters: Rashid Umar Abbasi)