The Falcon 9 at launch. (Source: Official SpaceX Flickr)

Musk Signs Up Mystery Passenger to Take Rocket Trip Around Moon

(Bloomberg) -- Elon Musk’s rocket company signed up its first passenger for a flight around the moon, taking a giant leap toward commercializing space travel.

The person’s identity will be revealed on Monday, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. said in a tweet. Asked whether he’d be the first passenger, Musk -- who’s also the chief executive officer of Tesla Inc. -- posted an emoji of a Japanese flag.

Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic LLC are among the companies attempting to commercialize space travel. SpaceX announced last year that it planned to send two unidenified private citizens on an around-the-moon mission in late 2018. Neither the company nor Musk tweeted about the timing of the trip. In July, billionaire Branson said he hoped to hitch a ride on a Virgin spaceship before the end of the year.

SpaceX earlier this month launched a commercial satellite from Florida that marked its 16th mission of 2018. Its valuation has climbed to about $28 billion, making it the third most valuable venture-backed startup in the U.S. after Uber Technologies Inc. and Airbnb Inc.

The company also has a contract to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.