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Space tourism pioneer Dennis Tito plans moon trip

Space tourism pioneer Dennis Tito is planning another space trip, only this time to the moon.

The 82-year-old American made history in 2001 when he became the first person to fund his own space mission, staying aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for just over a week.

On Wednesday, SpaceX revealed Tito’s plan for a fly-by of the moon on a voyage that he’ll take with his wife, Akiko. The mission will be SpaceX’s second privately funded moon trip as it’s also planning to send a Japanese billionaire entrepreneur on the same journey.

Dennis and Akiko Tito are the first two crewmembers on Starship’s second commercial spaceflight around the Moon →

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 12, 2022

“The Titos joined the mission to contribute to SpaceX’s long-term goal to advance human spaceflight and help make life multiplanetary,” SpaceX said on Wednesday.

The moon mission will involve 10 passengers — the other 8 have yet to be named — flying around our nearest neighbor before returning to Earth in a trip that’s expected to take about a week.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Tito said the moon voyage was first discussed with SpaceX about a year ago when he was on a tour of its facilities. “The question came up, would I like to go back and fly in space?” Tito said, adding: “Well, I certainly don’t want to go back to the space station. I don’t even want to orbit the Earth. And then I thought about it and I said I would be interested in going to the moon … I looked over to Akiko and we kind of had a little eye contact and she goes, ‘Yeah, me too.’ And that’s how it all began.”

Tito, a billionaire businessman and former rocket engineer, became the first paying passenger in space when he traveled to the ISS soon after the orbital outpost went into operation around 250 miles above Earth, with the round-trip ticket reportedly costing him $20 million. Neither SpaceX nor Tito have revealed the cost of a ticket for the moon trip, but you can bet it’ll be considerably more than what he paid for the ISS excursion.

Dates for the moon tourism flights have yet to be announced as SpaceX first needs to test the Starship rocket that will go there. The rocket’s maiden flight has faced multiple delays but could take place next month.

Space tourism is set to become a growing industry as space agencies and private spaceflight companies look at various ways to fund their work. NASA earlier this year organized its first space tourism trip to the ISS, while last year SpaceX sent four non-professional astronauts on a three-day trip in near-Earth orbit aboard a specially built Crew Dragon capsule.

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