Another billionaire signs up for private moon mission with SpaceX's Starship

This comes a few years after Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa purchased a trip for himself and eight artists to orbit the moon in Starship. Dennis and Akiko Tito will be among 12 passengers to launch on the second private moon orbiting Starship flight.

A second billionaire has signed up for a trip around the moon on SpaceX's Starship spaceship, still under development in Texas.

SpaceX announced Wednesday that Dennis and Akiko Tito would be the first two crew members on Starship's second private spaceflight around the moon. 

"Over the course of a week, Starship and the crew will travel to the moon, fly within 200 km (120 miles) of the moon’s surface, and complete a full journey around the Moon before safely returning to Earth," SpaceX said in a news release. 

This will be Dennis Tito's second spaceflight. The 82-year-old American engineer and entrepreneur paid Russia for a 2001 flight on Soyuz to the International Space Station.

According to Elon Musk's company, Akiko Tito will be among the first women to fly around the moon in Starship. 

Ten other yet-to-be-announced passengers on Starship will join the Titos. A launch date has not been announced.

The announcement comes a few years after Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa purchased a trip for himself and eight artists to orbit the moon in Starship, which will be the first moon orbiting mission for SpaceX's new vehicle. 

A launch date for the first private moon mission known as "dearMoon" has not been announced. According to Maezawa's website, the flight is targeted for some time in 2023. Maezawa also visited the Space Station through a seat purchased from Russia earlier this year.

In a call with reporters Wednesday, Dennis Tito declined to say how much he paid for their future moon mission.  Unlike, Maezawa, who is paying for a whole spaceship, the Titos have purchased two seats. 

Still, a lot must happen before either private moon missions can happen. 

According to SpaceX, this second mission is expected to launch after the Polaris Program’s first flight of Starship and "dearMoon." 

The Polaris Program is a private space program started by Shift4 Payment CEO Jared Isaacman, who previously launched with SpaceX on the Inspiration 4 mission last year. Isaacman and three others will launch on SpaceX's Crew Dragon next spring to conduct the first private spacewalk. 

The final flight under Polaris would be the first human spaceflight of Starship.

Meanwhile, SpaceX is testing and developing the Starship rocket and reusable Super Heavy booster in Boca Chica, Texas.

The company was awaiting a Federal Aviation Administration environmental assessment completed in June to conduct the first orbital flight test with Starship. 

Musk has indicated that a test launch could happen from Texas before the end of 2022. A Starship and Super Heavy Booster are stacked at the Texas launch site, ready to go, according to SpaceX. 

Eventually, SpaceX plans to launch the vehicle from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A launch tower to support the massive spaceship is currently under construction at launchpad 39A, which SpaceX leases from NASA to launch the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. 

In addition to the private missions already booked with Starship, NASA awarded SpaceX the human landing system contract to use Starship to shuttle astronauts to and from the moon under the Artemis program. 

NASA is targeting 2025 for the first moon landing in 50 years, but first, the space agency must successfully conduct its own test flight of its mega moon rocket called the Space Launch System.