World’s first space tourist, 82, who paid $20 million for a trip to the ISS in 2001 books flight to the moon on SpaceX’s Starship that could take another FIVE YEARS to take off
- Dennis Tito, 82, along with his wife Akiki, 57, will experience a weeklong moonshot aboard SpaceX’s Starship rocket
- The couple, along with 10 other paying customers, will travel within 125 miles of the lunar far side – the amount paid for the seats has not been revealed
- Tito signed the contract with SpaceX in 2021, which has the option for a flight within five years from now
- This is because the Starship rocket has yet to test its abilities in space
The world’s first space tourist who paid $20 million for a trip to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2001 has booked a private flight to the moon aboard SpaceX’s Starship, but the first-of-its-kind trip may not happen for another five years.
Dennis Tito, 82, along with his wife Akiki, 57, will experience a weeklong moonshot that will bring the couple within 125 miles of the lunar far side – the amount paid has not been revealed.
The couple signed a contract with Elon Musk’s SpaceX in August 2021 that includes the option for a flight within five years from now because there is a lot of testing and development still ahead of Starship that has yet to soar into space or even orbit.
The announcement, however, comes on the same day SpaceX stacked the giant Starship atop the Super Heavy booster for the first time in more than six months.
The booster is key to launching the massive Starship into space.
Denis Tito and his wife Akiko signed a contract with SpaceX for a weeklong mission around the moon. However, there is an option for the flight to happen five years from now – so the couple could be waiting a long time before liftoff
Tito is the second billionaire to make a Starship reservation for a flight around the moon.
Japanese fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa announced in 2018 he was buying an entire flight so he could take eight or so others with him.
Tito, however, is a pioneer in space tourism for his journey to the ISS 11 years ago – but he did so with Russia and not NASA.
The American space agency opposed a civilian roaming around the orbiting laboratory so instead of fighting the issue, Tito did the next best thing and went to the Russian Space Agency that needed the cash and took him up on the offer.
Tito (left) was the first space tourist. He paid $20 million to soar aboard a Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station in 2001
However, Tito is the second billionaire to make a Starship reservation for a flight around the moon. Japanese fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa announced in 2018 he was buying an entire flight. Maezawa also launched to the ISS on a private flight in 2021
Tito had to undergo a grueling training program to prepare his body to the rigors of space travel.
But there had been a wrangle over whether a tourist should be allowed to go to the space station.
NASA tried to block the flight, insisting Tito’s presence could jeopardize the work of the ISS crew.
But the Russians said Tito, a former rocket engineer, received the equivalent of a professional cosmonaut’s training.
And on April 28, 2001, Tito blasted off aboard a Soyuz rocket.
Tito understands he could travel aboard a currently running space tourist program, such as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, but the billionaire is not interested in a short 10-minute flight to suborbital space.
‘We have to keep healthy for as many years as it’s going to take for SpaceX to complete this vehicle,’ Tito said in an interview this week with The Associated Press.
‘I might be sitting in a rocking chair, not doing any good exercise, if it wasn’t for this mission.’
An aeronautics and astronautics engineer by training, Tito worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the 1960s, before founding the investment management firm Wilshire Associates in 1972.
Japanese born Akiko, a systems engineer who later moved to the finance industry and relocated to New York in 1995, added: ‘I want people to know that they can do whatever they set their mind to.
‘It’s never too late, no matter your age, race or gender.’
Tito, who sold his investment company Wilshire Associates almost two years ago, said he doesn´t feel guilty splurging on spaceflight versus spending the money here on Earth.
Tito had to undergo a grueling training program to prepare his body to the rigors of space travel. But there had been a wrangle over whether a tourist should be allowed to go to the space station. Here he is after returning to Earth following his stay on the ISS
The announcement, however, comes on the same day SpaceX stacked the giant Starship atop the Super Heavy booster for the first time in more than six months. The booster is key to launching the massive Starship into space
‘We’re retired and now it’s time to reap the rewards of all the hard work,’ he said.
Tito expects he’ll also shatter preconceived notions about age, much as John Glenn’s space shuttle flight did in 1998.
The first American to orbit the Earth still holds the record as the oldest person in orbit.
‘He was only 77. He was just a young man,’ Tito said. ‘I might end up being 10 years older than him,’
It’s unclear when SpaceX will commence commercial missions with Starship – a giant rocket that the company hopes to one day use to colonize Mars.
Musk has promised the rocket will complete its first orbital test this year, and a version of Starship has already been selected to be used as a lander for NASA’s Artemis missions to return humans to the Moon.
THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE: HOW BRANSON, MUSK AND BEZOS ARE VYING FOR GALACTIC SUPREMACY
Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin’s space capsule
Dubbed the ‘NewSpace’ set, Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk all say they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US beat the Soviet Union in the space race, and there is no doubt how much it would mean to each of them to win the ‘new space race’.
Amazon founder Bezos had looked set to be the first of the three to fly to space, having announced plans to launch aboard his space company Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20, but Branson beat him to the punch.
The British billionaire became Virgin Galactic Astronaut 001 when he made it to space on a suborbital flight nine days before Bezos – on July 11 in a test flight.
Bezos travelled to space on July 20 with his younger brother Mark, Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old physics student whose dad purchased his ticket, and pioneering female astronaut Wally Funk, 82.
Although SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk has said he wants to go into space, and even ‘die on Mars’, he has not said when he might blast into orbit – but has purchased a ticket with Virgin Galactic for a suborbital flight.
SpaceX became the first of the ‘space tourism’ operators to send a fully civilian crew into orbit, with the Inspiration4 mission funded by billionaire Jared Isaacman.
His flight was on a Dragon capsule and SpaceX rocket built by space-obsessed billionaire, Elon Musk and took off for the three day orbital trip on September 16 – going higher than the International Space Station.
SpaceX appears to be leading the way in the broader billionaire space race with numerous launches carrying NASA equipment to the ISS and partnerships to send tourists to space by 2021.
On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away, with Musk’s own red Tesla roadster attached.
Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule
SpaceX has also taken two groups of astronauts to the |International Space Station, with crew from NASA, ESA and JAXA, the Japanese space agency.
SpaceX has been sending batches of 60 satellites into space to help form its Starlink network, which is already in beta and providing fast internet to rural areas.
Branson and Virgin Galactic are taking a different approach to conquering space. It has repeatedly, and successfully, conducted test flights of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity space plane.
The first took place in December 2018 and the latest on May 22, with the flight accelerating to more than 2,000 miles per hour (Mach 2.7).
More than 600 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin’s space trips. The final tickets are expected to cost $350,000.
Branson has previously said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX.
Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft
SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows – one to the side and one overhead.
The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.
It climbs to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier craft, White Knight II, once it has passed the 50-mile mark.
Passengers become ‘astronauts’ when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere.
The spaceship will then make a suborbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 1.5 hours.
Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.
The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable ‘New Shepard’ booster rocket.
At its peak, the capsule reached 65 miles (104 kilometres), just above the official threshold for space and landed vertically seven minutes after liftoff.
Blue Origin are working on New Glenn, the next generation heavy lift rocket, that will compete with the SpaceX Falcon 9.
Source: Read Full Article