Elon Musk reveals the first passenger SpaceX will send around the moon


SpaceX has announced the identity of its first passenger to fly on its forthcoming BFR spacecraft, headed around the moon in 2023.

Yusaku Maezawa, the 42-year-old billionaire founder of Japan’s colossal online fashion mall, Zozotown, will fly around the moon on a mission that will take four or five days in total, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced on Monday.

And who does he want with him? Artists.

Musk revealed Maezawa’s identity at a press conference from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

The 42-year-old Japanese billionaire posted cryptic messages on his Instagram and Twitter accounts minutes before SpaceX’s announcement. 

Maezawa founded Japan’s largest online fashion mall, Zozotown, and custom-fit clothing label Zozo, and his net worth is reported to be $2.9 billion. His mail-order music album business, Start Today, was his real breakthrough, though, and is now listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

He will become the first non-American to orbit the moon.

“Finally I can tell you that I choose to go to the moon,” said Maezawa. “At the same time, I did not want to have such a fantastic experience by myself .. I want to share this experience with as many people as possible.

“I choose to go to the moon with artists.”

That’s right, six to eight artists “that represent Earth,” will be invited by Maezawa to join him on his mission to the moon. It’s a project he’s called “Dear Moon.” These artists will be asked to “see the moon up close and the Earth in full view, and create works that reflect their experience.”

“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon,” he said. “Just staring at the moon, it filled my imagination.

“What if Basquiat had gone to space? What wonderful masterpiece would he have created? What if Picasso had gone to the moon, or Andy Warhol, or Michael Jackson, or John Lennon, or Coco Chanel?”

A render of BFR, shown during SpaceX’s press conference.

Image: mashable screenshot/spacex

Maezawa referred to Earth’s longtime love affair with the moon, Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” and Van Gogh “Starry Night,” and other works of art that have been inspired by the moon, “our planet’s constant partner.”

He has not decided which artists to invite, but will be reaching out to painters, sculptors, film directors, architects, fashion designers and others.

Maezawa declined to say how much he’s paying for the flight, but Musk said it’ll be free for the artists. Going forward, Musk and Maezawa will figure out details like training, but “nothing’s written in stone.”

The company signed Maezawa to fly on its BFR launch vehicle on Thursday, in what would be “an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space.”

The BFR is SpaceX’s next generation spacecraft and launch vehicle system, set to be used along with the company’s current suite of hardware like the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.

Raptor engine a-go-go.

Raptor engine a-go-go.

Image: mashable screenshot/spacex

Announced last year, the BFR ship will sit 118 metres long — previously announced as 106 metres (347 feet) long — and Musk has said the ship will contain up to 40 cabins which will have enough space for 100 people. 

Musk gave some more detail about the BFR on Monday. It’ll be 1100 cubic metres in total, and the payload will be similar to that of Falcon 9, about 100 metric tonnes (to the surface of Mars). 

It’ll have forward actuated fins, and rear actuated fins, and it’ll be powered by SpaceX’s Raptor thrust engine.

Musk described it on Monday as an “interplanetary transport system that’s capable of getting people anywhere in the solar system.” He also mentioned that SpaceX spends less than five percent of its budget on the BFR, but it could increase.

“Quite a small portion of SpaceX’s resources are currently spent on BFR. That will change significantly in years to come,” he said.

You can watch the whole announcement here:

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So, artists, who wants to go to the moon? 

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