Japanese billionaire businessman revealed as SpaceX’s first Moon traveler

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Hawthorne

A Japanese billionaire and online fashion tycoon, Yusaku Maezawa, will be the first man to fly on a monster SpaceX rocket around the Moon as early as 2023, and he plans to bring six to eight artists along.

Maezawa, 42, will be the first lunar traveler since the last US Apollo mission in 1972. He paid an unspecified amount of money for the privilege.

“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 chief executive of Japan’s largest online fashion mall, and is the 18th richest person in Japan with a fortune of $3 billion, according to the business magazine Forbes.

Maezawa’s other hobby is amassing valuable works of modern art and 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.”

Maezawa said he planned to pick “artists I love” to go along, but gave no further specifics.

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.

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.

– Free for artists –

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.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” said Maezawa.

“All right. Maybe we will both be on it,” Musk said to cheers and applause.

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.

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. AFP

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