SpaceX announced Wednesday that it had booked another mission to the moon for a wealthy thrill seeker on its Starship spacecraft.
Dennis Tito, an American millionaire who paid for his ticket to the International Space Station in 2001 with his wife Akiko, plans to embark on a lunar expedition that will last about a week according to SpaceX.
SpaceX must fulfill its promise to launch billionaire payments processing CEO Jared Isaacman in the first commercial human spaceflight mission. This mission will be accomplished only after SpaceX has successfully launched Starship, a rocket-and-spacecraft system still in development at SpaceX’s South Texas facilities. Starship is currently awaiting federal approval to fly its first uncrewed orbital flight.
According to a news release, SpaceX will also make its first orbit around the Moon for Yusaku Maezawa (billionaire fashion mogul), a mission that was announced many years ago before Tito’s.
Tito stated Wednesday afternoon at a news conference that there was only one difference between Maezawa’s mission and his. Maezawa bought an entire flight for himself as well as a group, and Tito purchased individual seats.
Tito stated that the mission is now open to 10 other people. He said that he doesn’t expect this flight to launch anytime soon, but that he hopes SpaceX will launch hundreds of flights — including uncrewed Satellite Launches — before he and his wife fly.
Tito stated, “This was a long-term pursuit, a dream of mine that started in 1958 when I began to study aeronautics. “If I can prove that an 80-year-old man can do this, hopefully, that will inspire others of all ages… that it is possible.”
Akiko Tito said that she is an engineer and pilot, as well as an investor. She also stated that she hopes the mission will increase awareness about new opportunities in spaceflight travel.
Dennis Tito received a master’s in engineering science in 1964. He then worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California before moving on to a financial job in 1972. According to Britannica’s biography, he left for the financial sector in 1972. On Wednesday, he declined to disclose financial details about the Starship mission.
Aarti Matthews is SpaceX’s director for Starship crew and cargo programs. She said SpaceX booking private Starship missions is part of their goal to provide “airline-like access” to space.
Tito, 82 years old, was the first person to pay for his trip to space 21 years ago. He booked a ride with Space Adventures. The company purchased seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft and booked a few rides to space.
SpaceX and other commercial space companies are now looking to expand on the early days of space tourism by offering seats aboard new, US-made spacecraft.
However, it is not yet clear when the first crewed Starship missions will launch. This spacecraft will be the successor to Crew Dragon, which SpaceX built and designed to transport NASA astronauts to and fro ISS. Isaacman is one of the private customers that SpaceX has launched aboard this vehicle.
Starship, however, is much larger than any SpaceX rocket or any other rocket designer has ever made. It is expected to produce more thrust than NASA’s Saturn V rocket that powered the mid-20th-century moon landings, as well as the new space agency’s moon rocket called SLS or Space Launch System. It has been long touted by the company as the vehicle that could put humans on Mars, and NASA has reserved it for later in the decade to bring back astronauts to the lunar surface.
Elon Musk, the SpaceX CEO, has however stated that he plans to launch Starship missions and test them with only satellites before adding people.
The Federal Aviation Administration must approve the company before this can occur. This agency licenses commercial rocket launches.
An FAA spokesperson stated that they will only make a license determination after SpaceX has provided all relevant information and the agency has fully analyzed it.