Tito and his wife are booked on a week-long mission that will dip in close to the lunar surface.
(Image credit: SpaceX)
The first person to pay his way into space has now bought two tickets to the moon.
Dennis Tito, who in 2001 became the first privately-funded space tourist to fly to the International Space Station, revealed on Tuesday (Oct. 12) that he and his wife, Akiko, have reserved seats on SpaceX’s second circumlunar flight(opens in new tab) on board the still-in-development Starship launch vehicle.
“We looked at each other, and we knew right away,” Tito said of his and Akiko’s decision to fly to the moon in an interview with Ars Technica(opens in new tab). The idea came up during a 2021 visit to SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, 20 years after Tito’s first spaceflight.
The two signed a contract with SpaceX that summer. As currently planned, the Titos will join 10 other passengers, still to be signed up, on a week-long mission that will bring them within 25 miles (40 km) of the lunar surface. The launch is expected later this decade, following another lunar mission dubbed “#dearMoon”(opens in new tab) that was booked by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa in 2018.
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Per that schedule, Tito could set a record as the oldest person to launch into orbit, let alone fly to the moon. Now 82, he is already older than the current record holder, the late astronaut and Senator John Glenn, who flew on NASA’s space shuttle Discovery at the age of 77. (Actor William Shatner of “Star Trek” fame was 90 when he lifted off(opens in new tab) on Blue Origin’s New Shepard last October, but that flight did not enter orbit.)
“They looked at every possible thing that could be problematic, and it turned out there weren’t any problems,” Tito told Ars Technica(opens in new tab), referring to the physiological and cognitive tests that both he and Akiko, 57, underwent after signing up to fly. “Both of us passed with flying colors.”
Tito was one of the oldest people to fly into space when he lifted off on his first mission two decades ago.
The first orbital client of the U.S. space tourism company Space Adventures, Tito designed trajectories for NASA missions before making his fortune as the head of an investment management firm. He was 60 when he launched with two career cosmonauts on Russia’s Soyuz TM-32 spacecraft on April 28, 2001. Two days later, they docked with the International Space Station, where Tito stayed for five days.
In total, he logged 7 days, 22 hours and 4 minutes in space at a reported cost of $20 million.
“It was eight days of euphoria,” Tito told CNN in 2021(opens in new tab). “It was the greatest moment of my life, to achieve a life objective, and I knew then that nothing could ever beat this.”
Nothing, perhaps, then a flight into deep space. In 2013, Tito founded Inspiration Mars(opens in new tab) to pursue a flight to the Red Planet five years later.
“I wasn’t realistic about what it would really take for a mission to Mars,” Tito told Ars. “I was thinking about how during Apollo the U.S. really wanted to go to the moon they could do it in a short period of time … I was just daydreaming, it was so far from reality.”
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The moon now seems much more in reach (Tito did not disclose the price he paid for the two seats). In addition to developing Starship to fly privately-funded tourists around the moon, SpaceX is also under contract with NASA to adapt Starship as a lunar lander(opens in new tab) for the agency’s first return with astronauts to the lunar surface, targeted for 2025. Depending on when he flies, Tito’s mission could also serve as a test flight of sorts for NASA’s Artemis moon missions.
“My personal timeframe is that we’re willing to wait for as long as we’re healthy,” Tito said. “We can’t force the timeline. It will happen when it happens.”
Sources from: SPACE.COM
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