The Japanese billionaire who wants to fly to the moon

Enlarge Image Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa speaks about his moon mission through SpaceX.                  Video screenshot by CNET

"The first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard BFR (Big Falcon Rocket) is fashion innovator and globally recognized art curator Yusaku Maezawa", SpaceX tweeted on Monday.

The 42-year-old tech tycoon made headlines Tuesday when SpaceX revealed that Maezawa has chartered a flight aboard the company's Big Falcon Rocket, which is still being developed, for a slingshot trip around the moon as soon as 2023. On coming back to the Earth, these artists will be expected to create masterpieces inspired by the Moon which in turn would "inspire the dreamer within all of us".

Musk would not say what the trip would cost, but did say that the design of the almost 400-foot tall rocket had evolved recently, with the first flights to orbit coming in two to three years.

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I'm not sure that I'd want Elon on a spaceship with me, although maybe they'll make him leave the Ambien behind, and that's good for everyone involved. Or Andy Warhol or Michael Jackson or John Lennon? He says the rocket will have to be tested many times before a human passengers are launched.

Yusaku Maezawa is the first passenger to book a trip to the moon on a SpaceX rocket.

The billionaire said his goal with the Lunar mission is to promote world peace and inspire humanity.

NASA is planning its own lunar flyby with a crew around 2023. The space agency aims to build a gateway in the vicinity of the moon, complete with staff, during the 2020s. Twelve walked on the lunar surface.

His love of art led him to decide to invite artists to come along, he said.

He had set the previous auction high for Basquiat months earlier, bidding $57.3 million for an untitled painting at Christie's.

He has not announced major art purchases so far this year, suggesting at least some of the funds may have been used to participate in Musk's mission.

SpaceX announced September 17 that a Japanese billionaire will be paying an undisclosed but significant sum to buy a flight of the company's next-generation rocket for a flight around the moon carrying a group of artists. Musk did not name the clients past year or say how much they would pay.

SpaceX reminded us only 24 humans have been to the moon and no one has visited since NASA's final 1972 Apollo mission.

The era of space tourism began in 2001, when California businessman Dennis Tito paid for a journey on a Russian rocket to the International Space Station. The tourists slated to take that trip were never publically named.

Musk says SpaceX has already built the first cylinder section of the BFR.

Whether or not SpaceX will fly an uncrewed BFR on a lunar free return trajectory mission - flying the exact profile it will with Maezawa and his passengers - before Maezawa's mission has not yet been determined.

Musk's successes have recently been overshadowed by his behavior and the struggles of his Tesla electric vehicle company to deliver. The entrepreneur drew widespread condemnation after baselessly calling a British diver involved in the rescue of a trapped Thai soccer team a "pedo guy" in July.



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