Akiko and Dennis Tito are customers on SpaceX’s second circumlunar mission aboard Starship. The Titos announced Wednesday that they purchased two of a dozen seats on the second of SpaceX’s planned circumlunar flights later this decade. With the public announcement, Akiko Tito becomes the first woman confirmed to fly on Starship. The flight will last about a week, outbound to the Moon, passing within about 40 km of the surface and flying back. Ten other seats on Starship remain unsold and are available. Tito said he was not at liberty to disclose the price he paid.
There are now three Super Heavy Starship flights. Billionaire Jared Isaacman’s Polaris III mission, likely to low Earth orbit, which will be followed by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa’s “dearMoon” flight, the first human Starship flight around the Moon.
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6 thoughts on “Akiko and Dennis Tito Will Fly on Super Heavy Starship”
Maybe it’s not to early for SpaceX to start thinking about developing a system to produce oxygen by processing lunar regolith? That ought to be smaller and less complex than all the systems needed to mine water ice to produce both fuel AND oxygen, and can be used anywhere on the lunar surface.
If it isn’t a lot harder to get a Starship into Mars orbit vs to going directly to the surface (both can aerobrake, but orbit requires propellant to rendezvous with a LOX tanker or with one of the moons), the lunar oxygen-from-regolith system might be applied on Phobos or Deimos.
Then you could add LOX before landing – less mass from Earth or bigger safety margins or maybe faster transit.
And you could add LOX in Mars orbit before returning to Earth – far less O2 mass to be carried up to orbit, hence less methane and O2 production required on the surface, hence a lot less energy production requirements for the initial automated Mars surface fuel/oxygen production system. And due to more sunlit hours near the moons, less total solar panel mass brought from Earth for ISRU propellant production.
Two scheduled passenger lunar flights for the first crewed Starship emphasizes the fact that SpaceX will have a complete Lunar Transport system in place once it builds the two Artemis HLS landers for NASA’s mission. It will have cargo/tanker/propellant depot Starships and an established ability to refill Starships with propellant.
SpaceX will be able to sell NASA, ESA, or anyone including private corporations and individuals a lunar base and transport to the moon.
This capability will have just emerged from fulfilling the contracts for NASA and Maezawa without SpaceX specifically investing in it.
I think both are lunar rendezvous flights, not landings.
But lunar landings aren’t that far off. SLS/Orion is still there on Artemis just for PR and saving face.
Truth is, crew Dragon and lunar Starship could do everything in the Artemis mission profile. Launch Starship, refill it, then launch people on Dragon, dock with Starship and go to the Moon, land and return to meet Dragon again for returning to Earth (it can do it with a handful of people onboard). If there are fuel concerns, they could launch a dedicated lander into lunar orbit and send people in another Starship to dock with it, and do Artemis sans Orion/SLS.
Artemis still will be useful, though, because they’ll get paid for testing the Starship lunar landing and return capability before sending anyone there.
In the same way crew Dragon was paid and developed according to NASA’s wishes, but now serves them well for other paying customers.
I would think that there ought to be an uncrewed abort at max-Q and test of re-entry and landing from lunar speeds first. I would prefer to see such early crewed mission send people to LEO via Dragon and down via Dragon before sticking passengers on Starship.
To be fair, there is nothing in the article that says that the crews won’t go into orbit using Falcon 9 and Dragon, only that they will fly (some around the Moon) on Starship.
I’m not sure “abort at max-Q” is a useful test, but I expect to see uncrewed flights happening before the first crewed flight, which is Mr Isaacman’s.
I saw an article Wednesday or Thursday that said Tito claimed the whole trip was to be on Starship — no other vehicle involved. Might have been the article on Ars Technica, but I don’t recall clearly where I saw it.
Of course, there is no guarantee the writer of that article got Tito’s quote correct, or even that Tito understands the mission profile completely.
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