Elon Musk's space transportation company announces fashion magnate, Yusaku Maezawa, will be the first private passenger to fly on a monster rocket around the Moon as early as 2023.
SpaceX, Elon Musk's space transportation company, on Monday named its first private passenger on a voyage around the moon as Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, the founder and chief executive of online fashion retailer Zozo.
A former drummer in a punk band, Maezawa's moon flight is tentatively planned for 2023 aboard SpaceX's forthcoming Big Falcon Rocket spaceship, taking the race to commercialise space travel to new heights.
The first person to travel to the moon since the United States' Apollo missions ended in 1972.
Maezawa's identity was revealed at an event on Monday evening at the company's headquarters and rocket factory in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne.
"He's a very brave person to do this," Musk said of the Japanese entrepreneur.
Most famous outside Japan for his record-breaking $110 million purchase of an untitled 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, Maezawa said he would invite six to eight artists to join him on the lunar orbit mission.
"In 2023, as the host, I'd like to invite six to eight artists from around the world to join me on this mission to the moon. These artists will be asked to create something after they return to Earth and these masterpieces will inspire the dreamer within all of us," the Japanese billionaire said.
The billionaire chief executive of electric car maker Tesla Inc, Musk revealed more details of the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR, the super heavy-lift launch vehicle that he promises will shuttle passengers to the moon and eventually fly humans and cargo to Mars.
The BFR could be conducting its first orbital flights in about two to three years, he said.
Trip costs not disclosed
Musk had previously said he wanted the rocket to be ready for an un-piloted trip to Mars in 2022, with a crewed flight in 2024, though his ambitious production targets have been known to slip.
"It's not 100 percent certain we can bring this to flight," Musk said of the lunar mission.
The amount Maezawa is paying for the trip was not disclosed, however, Musk said the businessman outlaid a significant deposit and will have a material impact on the cost of developing the BFR.
The 42-year-old is one of Japan's most colourful executives and is a regular fixture in the country's gossipy weeklies with his collection of foreign and Japanese art, fast cars and celebrity girlfriend.
Maezawa made his fortune by founding the wildly popular shopping site Zozotown. His company Zozo, officially called Start Today Co Ltd, also offers a made-to-measure service using a polka dot bodysuit, the Zozosuit.
In a country known for its staid corporate culture, the businessman is one of a small group of founders widely recognised by the general public - with others including SoftBank Group Corp's Masayoshi Son and Fast Retailing's Tadashi Yanai.
"For me, this project is very meaningful. I thought long and hard about how valuable it would be to become the first private passenger to go to the moon. At the same time I thought about how I can give back to the world and how this can contribute to world peace. This is my lifelong dream," Maezawa said.