Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to become moon space tourist

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to become moon space tourist

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to become moon space tourist

Yusaku Maezawa, the founder of Japanese e-commerce giant Zozo, has signed up to fly a round-the-moon mission aboard SpaceX's BFR spaceship-rocket combo, he and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced during a webcast tonight (Sept. 17) from the company's rocket factory in Hawthorne, California.

Musk has previously said he wants the rocket to be ready for an unpiloted trip to Mars in 2022, with a crewed flight in 2024, though his ambitious production targets have been known to slip.

Maezawa, an art lover and collector, said he will take six to eight artists with him. In a landmark achievement in 2016, the company unveiled a launch system -Big Falcon Rocket (BFR)- which helps this lunar mission. Maezawa did not reveal how much he paid for the upcoming flight, but Musk confirmed Maezawa is "paying a very significant amount of money".

Only 24 astronauts have flown beyond Earth's protective magnetic shield, in missions spanning a four-year period from December 1968 to December 1972.

Maezawa's other hobby is amassing valuable works of modern art and a year ago, he announced the acquisition of a Jean-Michel Basquiat masterpiece worth $110.5mn.

The billionaire stood before the audience at SpaceX headquarters on Monday evening and was greeted with cheers as he proclaimed John F. Kennedy's famous line "I choose to go to the moon".

"I did not want to have such a fantastic experience by myself, that would be a little lonely", he said. He made a splash in the art world in 2017, when he spent $110.5 million on a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting at a Sotheby's auction, setting a record for an American artist's work at the time.

The artists Maezawa plans to take on his voyage to the moon have not been named. "I don't know if they have the skills to translate that experience in a way that is digestible for the majority of people".

He added that he anticipates SpaceX's Starlink satellite system to be operational by then, which he said should aid in the broadcast, particularly when the moon is between the Earth and the spaceship.

This isn't the first time Musk has vowed to send tourists around the Moon.

Musk estimated it would cost $5bn to build. He will be the eighth space tourist in history, and the first to orbit the moon. The company then plans to fly the capsule with a two-person crew in the second quarter of 2019.

SpaceX is on the verge of announcing the name of person who would be the first private passenger on a trip around the moon. As the Post noted, it's been remarkably successful with "34 straight successful rocket launches over the last 20 months" and a "massive backlog of commercial launch contracts".

With SpaceX, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and entrepreneur Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic battling it out to launch private-sector spacecraft, Maezawa will join a growing list of celebrities and the ultra-rich who have secured seats on flights offered on the under-development vessels.

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