World’s First Space Tourist To Take Flight Around the Moon on Elon Musk’s Starship

by Sean Griffin
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The world’s first space tourist will be going back. However, this time, he’ll be on a trip around the moon aboard Elon Musk’s Starship.

Dennis Tito, 82, went to space back in 2001. That year, the billionaire funded his own trip into space. He spent nearly eight days in orbit as a crew member of ISS EP-1, which was a visiting mission to the International Space Station.

This mission was launched by the spacecraft Soyuz TM-32, and was landed by Soyuz TM-31.

However, this time, he doesn’t want to do a repeat of his trip to the International Space Station.

“Been there, done that,” he said.

The exact date of the weeklong trip to the moon will take place sometime years in the future. However, the trip will bring Tito within 125 miles of the lunar far side. His wife, Akiko, will join him, along with 10 other passengers willing to pay top dollar for a spot onboard.

Tito won’t say exactly how much he’ll be paying. However, his Russian station flight cost $20 million.

The couple knows that Starship needs more testing and development before it launches into space.

“We have to keep healthy for as many years as it’s going to take for SpaceX to complete this vehicle,” Tito said in an interview this week with The Associated Press. “I might be sitting in a rocking chair, not doing any good exercise, if it wasn’t for this mission.”

Elon Musk’s Starship Will Take Other Billionaires to Space

Tito isn’t the first billionaire to make a Starship moon-shot reservation.

Tito is actually the second billionaire to make a Starship reservation for a flight around the moon. Japanese fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa announced in 2018 that he would buy an entire flight so he could take eight or so others with him. Apparently, Maezawa preferred to choose artists. The two men both flew to the space station, from Kazakhstan atop Russian rockets, 20 years apart from each other.

Many credit Dennis Tito with pioneering space tourism.

He was the first person to pay his own way to space. NASA didn’t want a tourist around during the construction of the station, But the Russian Space Agency needed cash. Along with U.S.-based Space Adventures, they launched many wealthy clients to the station through the 2000s. Just a year ago, Maezawa earned his way into space.

Another alternative to Musk’s space tourism options is Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket company. Also, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic wants to take paying passengers as early as next year.

Starship has yet to launch. When it does, it will launch atop a Super Heavy booster from the southern tip of Texas, near the Mexican border.

The rocket is the largest and most powerful ever built: it stands at 394 feet (120 meters) and produces 17 million pounds (7.7 million kilograms) of liftoff thrust.

NASA already has contracted for a Starship to land its astronauts on the moon in 2025 or so. This will be the first lunar touchdown since Apollo.