SpaceX books another ride for a millionaire around the moon
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SpaceX said Wednesday that it has booked yet another mission around the moon for a wealthy thrill-seeker on its forthcoming Starship spacecraft.
Dennis Tito, a US millionaire who previously paid his way to the International Space Station in 2001, and his wife, Akiko, plan to take a lunar expedition that will last roughly a week, according to SpaceX.
The mission will come only after SpaceX fulfills its commitment to launch billionaire payments processing CEO Jared Isaacman on the first commercial human spaceflight mission on Starship, a rocket and spacecraft system that is still under development at SpaceX facilities in South Texas. Starship is awaiting approval from federal regulators to make its first uncrewed orbital test flight.
SpaceX will also carry out its first trip around the moon for billionaire fashion mogul Yusaku Maezawa, a mission announced years ago, before Tito’s trip, according to a press release.
Tito, who is 82, became the first person ever to pay his way to space 21 years ago when he booked a ride with a company called Space Adventures. That company booked a handful of rides to space by purchasing seats aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft in the early 2000s.
Now, commercial space companies, including SpaceX, are looking to follow up on those earliest days of space tourism by selling seats aboard newly developed, US-made spacecraft.
It’s not clear when the first crewed Starship mission will take off, however. That spacecraft is expected to be the follow-up to the capsule called Crew Dragon that SpaceX designed and built to carry NASA astronauts to and from ISS. The company has already launched private customers, including Isaacman, aboard that vehicle.
But Starship is far bigger than anything that SpaceX — or any other rocket developer — has ever built. It’s expected to have more thrust than both NASA’s Saturn V rocket, which powered the moon landings of the mid-20th century, and the space agency’s new moon rocket, called SLS. The company has long billed it as the vehicle that could one day put humans on Mars for the first time, and NASA has reserved the vehicle to return astronauts to the lunar surface later this decade.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has, however, said he plans to carry out Starship test launches and missions with no crew — only satellites — before putting people on board.
Before that can happen, the Federal Aviation Administration, which licenses commercial rocket launches, must give the company approval.
When reached by email Wednesday morning, an FAA spokesperson said only that the agency will “make a license determination only after SpaceX provides all outstanding information and the agency can fully analyze it.”