SpaceX said Monday night that it would send Yusaku Maezawa, a billionaire entrepreneur and online fashion tycoon from Japan, on a trip around the moon in 2023 aboard the company’s monster Big Falcon Rocket. Maezawa won’t be flying alone: joining him will be six to eight artists, chosen from a pool of painters, photographers, musicians, film directors, fashion designers, and architects from around the world.
Maezawa, 42, plans to bring six to eight artists along. He will be the first lunar traveler since the last US Apollo mission in 1972. He paid an unspecified amount of money for the privilege. Until now, Americans are the only ones who have left Earth’s orbit. A total of 24 NASA astronauts—all white men—voyaged to the Moon during the Apollo era of the 1960s and ’70s. Twelve walked on the lunar surface.
“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the Moon,” Maezawa said at SpaceX headquarters and rocket factory in Hawthorne, California, in the middle of metropolitan Los Angeles, late Monday. “This is my lifelong dream.”
Maezawa is the founder of Zozotown, Japan’s largest online fashion mall. His net worth is $2.9 billion, according to Forbes. He is an avid art collector, and in 2016 he spent $80 million on paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Pablo Picasso, two artists he cited as inspirations during Monday’s event. Last year, he announced the acquisition of a Jean-Michel Basquiat masterpiece worth $110.5 million.
His love of art led him to decide to invite artists to come along, he said. “I would like to invite six to eight artists from around the world to join me on this mission to the Moon,” Maezawa said. “They will be asked to create something after they return to Earth. These masterpieces will inspire the dreamer within all of us.
The first space tourist was Dennis Tito, an American businessman who in 2001 paid some $20 million to fly on a Russian spaceship to the International Space Station.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk described Maezawa as the “bravest” and “best adventurer.” “He stepped forward,” Musk added. “We are honored that he chose us.”
Musk said he would not reveal the price Maezawa paid for the Moon trip, but said it would be “free for the artists.”
“This is dangerous, to be clear. This is no walk in the park,” Musk cautioned. “When you are pushing the frontier, it is not a sure thing. There is a chance something could go wrong.”
Still, when asked by reporters if Musk would be a passenger, he left the door open to the possibility. “As far as me going, I’m not sure. He did suggest like maybe that I would join on this trip. I don’t know,” Musk said.
The ride will take place aboard a Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), which may not be ready for human flight for five years at least, Musk said. The BFR was first announced in 2016, and was touted as the most powerful rocket in history, even more potent than the Saturn V Moon rocket that launched the Apollo missions five decades ago.
Musk said SpaceX would conduct several uncrewed test launches of the BFR. The moon trip would last four to five days, he said. After launch, the BFR will make several course corrections and complete one loop around the moon before returning to Earth, where it will land upright, in a maneuver SpaceX has pioneered with its Falcon 9 rockets. “This will look really epic in person,” Musk said.
Last year, Musk said the BFR’s admittedly “ambitious” goal was to make a test flight to Mars in 2022, followed by a crewed flight to the Red Planet in 2024. The BFR spacecraft’s shape is reminiscent of the space shuttle, the bus-like US spaceships that carried astronauts to space 135 times from 1981 to 2011.
Musk has said he wants the BFR’s vessel to be able to hold around 100 people, and that the launch system could one day be used to colonize the Moon and Mars in order to make humans a “multi-planetary” species.
Other space companies, like Virgin Galactic, founded by British tycoon Richard Branson, and billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s rocket company Blue Origin, are working on trips to the edge of space that could offer tourists a chance at weightlessness for 10 minutes or so.
Virgin’s trip will cost about $250,000. Blue Origin’s price has not been revealed.
Russian and Chinese companies are also working on space tourism plans.
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