Dennis Tito, the first private space tourist after traveling with Russia to the International Space Station in 2001, purchased two seats on a SpaceX mission that would fly a Starship to the moon and back in a week.
“I’ve been wanting to go to the moon since my first trip to space,” Tito said during a press conference on Wednesday.
Akiko, 57, is a pilot and real estate investor who married Dennis Tito in 2020. They are likely to be the first married pair to orbit the moon.
Unlike the other two previously announced private Starship flights, the first purchased by billionaire Jared Isaacman and the second by billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, Tito and his wife did not purchase the full flight but simply two seats. That implies the lunar mission is “available for ten more people to join up,” he explained.
Aarti Matthews, SpaceX’s director of Starship crew and cargo programs, stated during the briefing that Tito’s flight would take three days to reach the moon, go within 125 miles (or around 200 kilometers) of the lunar surface, and then return to Earth.
“This mission is really groundbreaking in that it puts us on a very firm step towards airline-like operations, where now, for the first time, you can buy an individual seat to the moon,” Matthews said.
However, the mission’s timeline is unknown and will likely be years away.
SpaceX has yet to reach orbit with a Starship prototype, is under contract with NASA for a pricey and high-profile crew moon trip, and needs to utilize the rocket to drop Starlink satellites more quickly. Furthermore, Tito’s flight is ranked third on the company’s priority list of announced private crew missions.
Tito, for one, stressed that he understands the flight around the moon “will not happen in the near term.” However, he also stated that he anticipates SpaceX completing “hundreds” of Starship flights before he and Akiko fly.
On the other hand, his passion for the company’s long-term aims is unwavering. Tito sold Wilshire Associates, the financial firm he founded in 1972, two years ago. He says he has been “searching for something to do” since retiring.
“I’ve been following SpaceX almost daily, watching YouTube for the last five years, and I could see that there was an opportunity,” Tito said.