World's 1st space tourist signs up for flight around moon

| | Cape Canaveral
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World's 1st space tourist signs up for flight around moon

Thursday, 13 October 2022 | AP | Cape Canaveral

The world's first space tourist wants to go back — only this time, he's signed up for a spin around the moon aboard Elon Musk's Starship.

For Dennis Tito, 82, it's a chance to relive the joy of his trip to the International Space Station, now that he's retired with time on his hands. He isn't interested in hopping on a 10-minute flight to the edge of space or repeating what he did 21 years ago. “Been there, done that.”

His weeklong moonshot — its date to be determined and years in the future — will bring him within 200 kilometers of the lunar far side. He'll have company: his wife, Akiko, and 10 others willing to shell out big bucks for the ride.

Tito won't say how much he's paying; his Russian station flight cost $20 million.

The couple recognise there's a lot of testing and development still ahead for Starship, a shiny, bullet-shaped behemoth that's yet to even attempt to reach 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.”

Tito is actually 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, preferably artists. The two men both flew to the space station, from Kazakhstan atop Russian rockets, 20 years apart.

Tito kicked off space tourism in 2001, becoming the first person to pay his own way to space and antagonising NASA in the process.

The U.S. Space agency didn't want a sightseer hanging around while the station was being built.

But the Russian Space Agency needed the cash and, with the help of U.S.-based Space Adventures, launched a string of wealthy clients to the station through the 2000s and, just a year ago, Maezawa.

Well-heeled customers are sampling briefer tastes of space with Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin rocket company.

Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic expects to take paying passengers next year.

Starship has yet to launch atop a Super Heavy booster from the southern tip of Texas, near the Mexican border.

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