SpaceX unveils Japanese billionaire as first ever private tourist for lunar mission

18 Sep 2018

The moon, taken from the Apollo 11 spacecraft. Image: NASA

Online fashion mogul Yusaku Maezawa will fly around the moon as part of a SpaceX mission.

Japanese retail figurehead and art collector Yusaku Maezawa today (18 September) announced his intention to fly around the moon on the SpaceX Big Falcon Rocket (BFR). The businessman is the founder of one of Japan’s largest retail sites, Zozotown.

The mission in question is planned for 2023 and would be the first lunar journey undertaken by humans since 1972, when the final Apollo mission took place.

“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon. It’s always there and continues to inspire humanity,” Maezawa said. He announced the news at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

Bringing artists to the moon

Maezawa also said he would invite six to eight artists from around the world to join him on the trip as a creative project. He noted: “I did not want to have such a fantastic experience by myself. That would be a little lonely. I don’t like being alone, so I want to share this experience with as many people as possible. That is why I choose to go to the moon with artists!”

He explained: “They [artists] will be asked to create something after they return to Earth. These masterpieces will inspire the dreamer within all of us.” The project will be called ‘Dear Moon’. Maezawa has not yet selected the artists who will be joining him on the lunar adventure.

The businessman will not land on the moon itself, but will travel on what is known as a ‘free return trajectory’, in a loop of sorts.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was reluctant to disclose the amount of money Maezawa paid to be a part of the mission, simply saying: “He’s paying a very significant amount of money.” Maezawa also attended the maiden launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket.

What is the timeline for the SpaceX mission?

According to Wired, SpaceX signed a lease in April close to its existing headquarters, where it will build the BFR. The BFR is a 35-storey-tall rocket created to launch and land like the SpaceX Falcon 9, but instead of satellites it will carry dozens of passengers on board.

Musk added that the design of BFR had been changed after intrigued people asked about new renders of the rocket, which appeared online. The BFR is actually two vehicles in one, a massive booster rocket and a Big Falcon Spaceship (BFS). A grand total of 31 Raptor engines will power the BFR.

The rocket itself is not yet built and Musk said that the mission was “not 100pc certain”. Musk added that the BFR launch system represents “an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of travelling to space”.

Musk said: “The purpose for SpaceX, the reason for creating SpaceX, was to accelerate the advent of humanity becoming a space-faring civilisation; to help advance rocket technology to a point where we could potentially become a multi-planet species and a true space-faring civilisation.”

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects