A BILLIONAIRE businessman has unveiled exciting plans to launch a rocket to the Moon from his vast estate on the outskirts of Taunton.

Ali Proflo has pencilled a blast off date into his diary of Saturday, April 1 next year.

And he is looking for four local people to join his month-long mission.

After years of secrecy, Mr Proflo, aged 72, has spoken exclusively to the County Gazette of what has driven him to undertake the lunar mission from the county town.

And we have seen a computer video mock up of the project, played out with background music of Frank Sinatra singing Fly Me To The Moon.

"I've been building the rocket in a massive barn on my estate for the past five years or so," said Mr Proflo. "It's nearly finished.

"It's actually easier than you'd imagine and you can find some easy-to-follow instructions on YouTube.

"I had originally planned to make an electric rocket until I realised it would probably only reach a couple hundred metres before running out of power and plummeting back to the ground.

"And I had to tweak things a bit after installing the petrol tank from my Ford Fiesta into the rocket. Only then did I realise it would need more fuel than the Fiesta's 42-litre capacity.

"But, hey ho, you live and learn.

"I don't want to give away too much at this stage because I'm determined to get to the Moon before NASA, the Russians or Elon Musk and I don't want them stealing my ideas.

"But I'm confident I can get the rocket airborne for a trial flight within a couple of weeks and it will be ready to journey into space this time next year.

"The only things I'm lacking at the moment are two brake lights and some windscreen wipers. The ones on my Fiesta don't work, but I'm sure I can pick up some second hand ones locally."

Mr Proflo admits flunking his science GCSEs at school and says he had hoped to learn a lot about space travel by following Brian Cox on Twitter.

"I'd thought he was a physicist and it took me a while to realise he's actually an actor," said Mr Proflo.

"So I read a few chapters of Stephen Hawking's Theory of Everything. He was a clever bloke you know and I soon got the hang of this space travel malarkey.

"What I do need though is a team of volunteers who can help fly my rocket the 240,000 miles to the Moon and the same distance back, when I'm hoping to splash down in the River Parrett.

"If you can drive a car, you won't need too much training. The controls are pretty similar.

"No qualifications are needed and I'll supply oxygen, water, food and spacesuits my wife is currently putting together from clothes she bought in a charity shop in Burnham-on-Sea.

"It's probably best if the volunteers I select bring their own wellies though to avoid catching athlete's foot or verrucas

"When we get there, the first thing I'll do is plant a Somerset flag on the Moon before getting out the barbecue and cooking up some burgers supplied by a well-known local butcher. No cider though as I want my crew to be alert on the flight home.

"We'll be leaving behind a coffee vending machine I bought in Chard for future missions - hopefully that will earn a few pounds towards my next mission!"

Mr Proflo says he has wanted to travel to the Moon ever since as a child he used to stare out of his bedroom window at night to marvel at the 'Man in the Moon'.

"I'm not stupid. I obviously know it isn't a real man, but it sparked my imagination," he said.

"But I am convinced there is life on the Moon.

"I've been working on a couple of things before deciding on the blast off time.

"We have to make sure we arrive in the night, otherwise the Moon won't be out.

"And it must be when there's a full moon, giving us a better chance of finding a good landing spot."