“The thing I have taken away from it is a sense of completeness for my life — that everything else I would do in my life would be a bonus.”  – Dennis Tito

Today marks 13 years since Dennis Tito became the world’s first private space explorer. Working with us, Tito was able to make space travel a reality – a dream he fought long and hard to achieve. 

Tito’s journey began in the late 70s when he was an engineer in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.  Although he eventually left for a career in finance, he never gave up his passion for space. Fast forward to 2000 – with his 60th birthday just around the corner, Tito decided it was now or never.

In 2001 we provided him with an opportunity decades in the making. That April, Tito became the first commercial space explorer, taking a ride on a Russian Soyuz to the International Space Station. The flight is the first major milestone in commercial space travel history.

Still, getting there wasn’t easy. Worried about making the leap to private exploration, NASA wanted to ensure the flight was safe which delayed the process at times. Tito’s success as a space tourist showed NASA that it could be done, and since then the agency has fully supported the other space passengers who have graced the galaxy. 

Since Tito’s maiden voyage, seven other citizens have flow with us. And we aren’t done yet! Soon there will be another star in space, celebrity soprano Sarah Brightman. Known for her heavenly voice, Brightman will get to experience the heavens first hand.

We’ll make history again with the world’s first private mission around the Moon. Untouched since 1972, this celestial body will host visitors once again in 2017. The mission will provide two private explorers and one professional cosmonaut with breathtaking views of the far-side of the Moon, as well as the stunning sight of the Earth rising above the surface of the Moon.

So, thank you Dennis Tito for your unwillingness to give up a lifelong dream to journey into the cosmos, inspiring the future of space exploration for everyone. You may not have gone where no man had gone before, but you achieved something that no private citizen had achieved before. That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for citizen-kind!