According to company representatives, SpaceX's recently announced tourist mission to the moon might help humanity expand its imprint far beyond Earth.
That expedition, announced today (Oct. 12), would send rich entrepreneur Dennis Tito, his wife Akiko, and 10 other people on a weeklong journey around the moon aboard SpaceX's massive Starship vehicle, which is currently in development. It is uncertain who the other 10 people will be; at the moment, only the Titos have reserved seats.
"Having a mission like this on our manifest expands what's possible," Aarti Matthews, director of Starship cargo and crew programs at SpaceX, said, referring to the Titos' coming flight.
This is a crucial distinction that sets apart the previous two private crewed Starship trips on SpaceX's agenda: each of them was completely purchased by a billionaire. As part of his Polaris program, the founder of Shift4 Payments, Jared Isaacman, is funding the still-mysterious first Starship human flight, and in 2018, a Japanese e-commerce executive named Yusaku Maezawa bought a Starship mission called dearMoon that will take him and a small group of other people around Earth's nearest neighbor.
"SpaceX's goal is to make humanity multiplanetary. And part of how you do that is thinking through, How do we make spaceflight really accessible to a group of people that haven't traditionally been able to take advantage of that opportunity?" Arti added. "This mission is a really notable step towards that, where, instead of buying a whole mission, you can now buy a single seat. That's already a pretty big cost reduction for an individual person."
The Titos and SpaceX have not disclosed how much the couple paid for their seats. The Titos mission will fly after both the Polaris Starship mission and dearMoon, as well as a significant number of uncrewed Starship flights to hoist SpaceX Starlink satellites and other cargo, according to Matthews.
Super Heavy, a massive first-stage booster, and Starship, an upper-stage spacecraft measuring 165 feet tall, make up Starship. Although the vehicle is still being developed, a significant achievement may occur within the next few weeks. SpaceX is preparing for the first-ever orbital test flight for the program, which will use a Super Heavy prototype named Booster 7 and a Starship known as Ship 24.
SpaceX's South Texas facility, Starbase, mounted the pair on the orbital launch mount on Tuesday (Oct. 11).