Serial entrepreneur Elon Musk will fly two people around the moon next year, boldly going where no private company has gone before.
In an announcement late last night Musk said two unnamed private citizens had approached his company, SpaceX, and had paid a “significant deposit” to secure the mission.
The announcement could start a new era of private space flight, after multiple other attempts have had technical difficulties.
Fly me to the moon ... Okhttps://t.co/6QT8m5SHwn— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 27, 2017
The Dragon Version 2 spacecraft will be launched on a test mission to the International Space Station (ISS), before trying to take the wealthy passengers around the moon in the second quarter of 2018.
The company says it is contracted to fly four Dragon 2 missions to the ISS, but it hopes to bolster that with the extra revenue stream offered by ultra-wealthy individuals willing to leave Earth.
SpaceX raised the prospect of further tourists signing up for trips: "Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow," its statement said.
Musk, who also owns electric car manufacturer Tesla, has sought to drive down the cost of space flight by pioneering reusable rockets, which had previously been one of the biggest costs in space technology.
Earlier this month SpaceX succeeded in landing one of its Falcon rockets back on a Florida launchpad, after earlier aborting the attempt.
Billionaire business figures across the world are working on commercial space travel. A successful flight would see Musk beat competition from Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic as well as Amazon owner Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin.
The announcement described the mission as an “important milestone as we work towards our ultimate goal of transporting humans to Mars.”