Japanese billionaire and entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa will be the first private citizen to take a flight around the moon in SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket, a 240,000-mile journey slated for as early as 2023.
In an emotional and jubilant speech during a SpaceX event Monday at the company’s headquarters in near Los Angeles, Maezawa exclaimed “I choose to go to the moon!”
If SpaceX is successful in its testing and development of the BFR — which has a long road ahead — Maezawa will be the first passenger to travel to the moon since the 1972 Apollo mission conducted by the United States. Only 24 people have been to the moon. The journey will last about a week and come as close as 125 miles to the moon’s surface before completing lunar transit and returning back to Earth, according to SpaceX.
“He is the best adventurer, I think,” Musk said of Maezawa during a Q&A with reporters after the announcement.
Maezawa has ticked just about every box on the list of possible careers in life. He’s an entrepreneur and musician, designer, artist, art collector and the founder and CEO of online fashion retailer Zozotown.
“This is my life long dream,” he said. “Ever since I was a kid I loved the moon, just staring at the moon it filled my imagination. It’s always there and continues to inspire.”
Maezawa said he wants to bring six to eight artists with him on flight so they’re inspired to create space and moon-inspired works that reflect their experience. He’s calling the project #dearMoon. “Their masterpieces will inspire the dreamer in all of us,” he said, adding he has not decided who should join him on the journey. He would like artists to be mix of musicians, photographers, painters and architects.
SpaceX has a lot to accomplish and considerable capital to raise before BFR sends Maezawa into space. Just 5% of SpaceX’s resources are currently dedicated to the BFR. It’s estimated to cost $5 billion to develop the BFR.
Neither Maezawa or Musk would disclose how much he is paying. Although Musk called him the real deal and noted he was paying “a lot of money.”
The BFR has not yet been built. Musk said the success of the project will depend on sources of revenue, including paying customers. The BFR could fit 100 people, but Musk said it makes sense to have about a dozen people on the first manned flight along with extra supplies.
Musk teased the announcement — and a new-looking BFR design — in a tweet Thursday evening, that it SpaceX had “signed the world’s first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle.” This is the third design that SpaceX has floated for BFR. This is “the final iteration in terms of broad architectural designs for BFR,” Musk said Monday night.
Musk revealed a few more details about the BFR during the Monday night event. The BFR design shown Monday is 118 meter long two-stage reusable spaceship that will be capable of taking a 100-metric ton payload to Mars.
SpaceX still plans to have “hopper” test flights of the BFR spaceship next year, followed by high-altitude, high-velocity flights in 2020.
The BFR, meant to stand for Big Falcon Rocket or anything else that might spring to mind, is designed to be sustainable interplanetary spaceship. It will eventually replace SpaceX’s other rockets such as Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.