The world's first space tourist will now also ride Starship around the Moon and back

Starship could launch to orbit for the first time next month.
Chris Young
Dennis and Akiko Tito (left) and the Starship prototype (right).
Dennis and Akiko Tito (left) and the Starship prototype (right).

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Entrepreneur Dennis Tito was the first-ever space tourist when he paid to fly aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station (ISS) back in 2001.

Now, SpaceX has announced Dennis Tito and his wife Akiko is "the first two crewmembers on Starship's second commercial spaceflight around the Moon."

Those missions will be a precursor to Starship's eventual crewed missions to Mars, which will be partly funded by SpaceX's space tourism launches and its Starlink internet service.

SpaceX's private space missions

The idea for the second private Starship moon mission came roughly a year and a half ago when the Titos visited SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. As per Ars Technica, Dennis Tito had wanted to travel around the Moon since around the time he flew to the ISS, but none of the spacecraft available had convinced him it would be manageable. That reportedly changed when he visited SpaceX HQ with his wife and got a good look at Starship.

The Titos booked two of the twelve seats that will be available on the second of SpaceX's planned lunar flights for later this decade. Both of those will follow a similar trajectory to NASA's Artemis I and Artemis II missions, both of which will fly around the Moon but will not land on the lunar surface.

After the announcement, Akiko Tito is now the first woman confirmed to fly on Starship. However, she likely won't actually be the first woman to fly on Starship, as not all passengers are confirmed for the first two passenger Starship flights that will take place before the Titos launch to the Moon.

The very first crewed Starship mission will be Polaris III, contracted by billionaire Jared Isaacman, which will likely fly to low Earth orbit. Isaacman has already flown to orbit aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule for his Inspiration4 mission. SpaceX's first private moon mission is called "dearMoon" and it will take Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and a number of artists to the Moon and back.

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NASA has, of course, also awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to land humans on the Moon again by around 2025 as part of its Artemis III mission. For that mission, however, Starship will only be used as a lander, and astronauts will launch on a separate rocket before boarding Starship in lunar orbit.

SpaceX prepares for Starship orbital maiden flight

The second private Starship mission to the Moon will last roughly a week and will fly within 24 miles (40 km) of the Moon's surface before flying back to Earth. Dennis Tito has said he is not at liberty to disclose the price of a ticket aboard the spaceflight.

Starship is nearing its first-ever orbital flight, with Elon Musk having recently announced on Twitter the fully reusable rocket could take flight as soon as next month. The massive launch system will fly numerous uncrewed missions — many of these Starlink payload launches — before it takes any humans to space.

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