NorCal astronaut hopes business won't compromise safety for SpaceX

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The new frontier of space travel is one step closer to reality as SpaceX and Elon Musk plan to send two civilians, wealthy ones, on a trip to the moon in late 2018. (KGO-TV)

The next frontier of space travel is one step closer to reality. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed Monday that two wealthy civilians will soon fly around the moon and back.

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Musk says the trip is scheduled to happen in late 2018 and if he and his company manage to pull it off, it will be the first time in 45 years that humans will venture that deep into space.

They've not yet been identified, but two people have put down significant deposits for a trip around the moon. Musk says they will fly faster and farther into the solar system than anyone before them.

"It would skim the surface of the moon," Musk said. "Go quite a bit further into deep space and loop back to earth."

The company's "Dragon 2" capsule will be launched into space by its "Falcon Heavy" rocket. Everything will be automated, but the travelers will be trained for emergencies.

Former astronaut and Northern California native Jose Hernandez says the two paying customers are in for a wild ride. He's all in favor of putting private citizens in space but hopes profits won't compromise safety.

"When you have private enterprise in the mix they look at the bottom line," said Hernandez. "And I'm hoping steps don't get skipped."

SpaceX says it will be charging its customers a bit more than what it costs to carry astronauts to the space station, which will likely be more than $200 million per person.

Space enthusiasts are giddy about what this could mean in the long run. "As they say, from out of Africa, to populate the entire globe through an era of exploration and discovery," said Sean Casey of the Silicon Valley Space Center. "And this is the next stage of exploration and discovery."

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A week-long trip around the moon could be the start of a whole new era.

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