SpaceX revealed the first passenger its signed up to fly to the moon on Monday for one very expensive art project.
The Elon Musk-founded company will send 42-year-old Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa into deep space, but he doesn’t want to take the trip all on his own. The entrepreneur hopes to bring along “six to eight artists” who will capture the experience on a four to five day mission in 2023.
If all goes according to plan, Maezawa will be the first non-American to orbit the moon.
Here’s what we know about him and his larger-than-life lunar ambitions:
Who is Yusaku Maezawa?
A skateboarder and former drummer in a hardcore band called Switch Style, Maezawa is now the 18th richest person in Japan with a net worth of $2.9 billion according to Forbes.
He is the founder of Start Today, a mail-order CD and record business he founded in 1998, which expanded into the online fashion business with Zozotown in 2004. Last year, the site boasted 7.2 million customers.
Maezawa is not shy when it comes to spending his riches, as evidenced when he made headlines for shelling out a record $110.5 million for Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 painting of a skull last year. At another auction in 2016, he spent $81 million in one night.
His love for Basquiat was something he echoed in the press conference, when he wore a t-shirt featuring a painting by the artist, and also spoke of his work. Basquiat died in 1988.
“One day, when I was staring at his painting, I thought, what if Basquiat had gone to space, and had seen the moon up close, or saw Earth in full view. What wonderful masterpiece could he have created?” he said.
Why does he want to go to the moon?
Maezawa said his interest in the moon started as a child.
“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon,” he said. “Just staring at the moon filled my imagination. It’s always there and has always continued to inspire humanity.”
But he doesn’t want to go alone either. He’s taking along artists representing Earth who will contribute to a project called #DearMoon.
He will first reach out to artists that he loves to see if they’d like to go, but it’ll be open to painters, sculptors, film directors, architects, fashion designers, and others.
“I love art. And I’m very much looking forward to seeing what different artists getting together could bring to life,” he said.
According to the project schedule on DearMoon’s website, selection of the artists will begin this year, with training and preparation to take place before planned liftoff in 2023.
“He is the bravest person and the most willing to do so, and he was the best adventurer I think,” Musk said of Maezawa.
“He stepped forward to do it. To be clear, we are honored that he would choose us. This is not us choosing him… He is a very brave person to do this.”
Maezawa has made a down payment on the trip, but declined to reveal how much he spent in total.
Musk said the money spent on the trip will help to fund the BFR’s development, with the goal of one day opening up space travel to the average person.
The artists would be travelling for free, and an exhibition will take place on Earth sometime after the trip finishes.
As for Musk, he’s not sure when he’ll go to space, even though Maezawa extended the invitation to him.