SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s moon mission could be launched sooner than people think. The Starship rocket is already being geared with the powerful Raptor engine needed for the lunar journey. If all goes to plan, SpaceX could be sending the first “tourists” to the moon as early as 2023.

A photo shared on a NASASpaceFlight.com discussion forum showed a structure believed to be the next-gen Raptor engine being built inside SpaceX's Boca Chica Village launch site. The photo was shared by Mary of Texas who goes by the name bocachicagal in the forum.

The Texas launch site is currently home to the stainless steel Starship prototype so the presence of the Raptor could mean that the space agency might be in the advanced stages of completing SpaceX’s rocket to the moon. The sighting of the Raptor coincides with Musk teasing the arrival of the engine and that it will be put into place this week.

“Raptor on way to Hopper. Will be mounted to vehicle next week,” the SpaceX CEO said in a tweet on March 9.

According to a report, once the engine is attached to the rocket, which will be used for takeoff and landing, tests such as ground systems testing, static fire tests, propellant loading and low-altitude hover demonstrations will be performed. The rocket will be tethered during these tests which won’t be announced to the public.

Musk has big plans for the Raptor engine as it will play a big role in the Starship rocket meant to take the first “moon tourists” to space. It will also be significant to the company's longterm goal of starting a lunar base and maybe a colony on the planet Mars. The stainless steal Starship will launch via the Super Heavy Rocket that is still being developed.

Super Heavy will require around 31 Raptor engines to operate while the Starship can carry about seven. During the testing stage, only a few Raptor engines will be used just in case it “blows up.”

Musk has been working very hard to start his company’s space exploration. It was only last year that he announced that SpaceX is aiming to bring private individuals to space via a two-way flight to the moon using the Starship rocket.

Recently, SpaceX successfully launched and returned the Crew Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS). The space capsule, which went into orbit via the Falcon 9 rocket, is expected to bring NASA astronauts to the ISS in the near future.

SpaceX Falcon 9 SpaceX is preparing to test the Raptor engine onboard the Starship rocket. Pictured: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen seconds after taking off during the Demo-1 mission, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 2, 2019. Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images