SpaceX announced today that it will be sending two (currently) anonymous citizens to orbit the Moon sometime in 2018. While there’s obviously many logistical, technical, and scientific questions that will undoubtedly be asked in the coming days about this venture, we’re going to try and answer perhaps the biggest one: why?
As JFK famously said in 1962, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Going to the Moon in this decade though, is also really, really expensive. For reference, a seat on a trip to the ISS costs NASA around $80 million a person, so we’re looking at two people with at least $100–150 million to spare, each.
What drives someone to spend that kind of money to fly to the Moon? Here’s our best guesses:
- Bragging rights — This seems like the most obvious answer. After all, wealthy billionaires love to one up each other, and what better destination vacation than flying around the far side of the Moon?
- Selfies — Moon selfies would be a great new profile picture, and probably rack up some serious likes on Instagram. (I’d say something like “Do it for the Vine” here, but Vine is dead.) Still, it’d be a hell of a photo shoot with a truly unbeatable view.
- Need to get away from the current American political climate — Look, it’s rough opening up Twitter and the newspaper and seeing the fresh horrors of whatever inane thing our president has decided to tweet. Sometimes, you need to get away for some peace and quiet. And it’s tough to get quieter than the far side of the Moon.
- Huge fan of space — Some people just really like space! Becoming an astronaut is really hard and requires incredible scientific and physical gifts, so buying your way to the Moon is probably easier, if we’re being honest. And can you really put a price on making a childhood dream come true?
- Extreme Pink Floyd fandom — Dark Side of the Moon is Pink Floyd’s most famous album, and fans have debated for years as to the best way to enjoy it. Perhaps “The Great Gig in the Sky” is really best appreciated when one is actually on the dark side of the Moon.
- Joining the 238,900 mile high club — This would be terrible in almost every respect. But according to NASA, no one has ever had sex in space. There are, of course, some logistical difficulties for space sex, but no one has ever bought a two-person trip to the far side of the Moon either. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.