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SpaceX To Send 'Private Citizens' On Flight To The Moon

LOS ANGELES ( — Two non-astronaut "private citizens" are set to take a trip around the moon late next year.

Hawthorne-based aerospace company SpaceX has announced its plans to send the passengers following a series health and fitness tests later this year.

Company chief Elon Musk announced the surprising news Monday with a tweet reading, "Fly me to the moon...OK".

Two people who know one another approached the company about sending them on a weeklong flight just beyond the moon. While Musk wouldn't identify the pair or the price tag, he said they've already paid a "significant" deposit.

In a statement, the company said the mission would be yet another step in its ultimate goal: to put a man (or woman) on Mars.

"Designed from the beginning to carry humans, the Dragon spacecraft already has a long flight heritage," a spokesperson said. "These missions will build upon that heritage, extending it to deep space mission operations, an important milestone as we work towards our ultimate goal of transporting humans to Mars."

Musk says SpaceX is on track to launch astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA in mid-2018. This moon mission would follow about six months later, using a Dragon crew capsule and a Falcon heavy rocket.

Musk says the moon mission is designed to be autonomous -- unless something goes wrong. SpaceX says the passengers would fly to the moon, but won't land on it.

Next year's planned mission is scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A, the same one used by the Apollo missions, with the spacecraft propelled by a Falcon Heavy rocket, which is set for its first test flight this summer.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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