Musk names Jap billionaire for 'dangerous mission' to moon

Gwen Vasquez
September 21, 2018

Elon Musk has revealed Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa as the potential first passenger to be launched to the moon by Musk's private aerospace company, SpaceX.

In the coming years, Maezawa will select the artists as SpaceX works to develop the BFR rocket and spaceship - though Musk didn't reveal the amount of money Maezawa is paying, he did confirm the amount would have a "nontrivial impact" on the BFR's development.

Mr Musk has said he wants the rocket to be ready for an unpiloted trip to Mars in 2022, with a crewed flight in 2024.

He intends to take six to eight people with him on his lunar trip, including a combination of painters, musicians, dancers, photographers, film directors, fashion designers, and architects, reports Bloomberg. "And late Sunday, Musk further fueled the anticipation by tweeting out artist renderings of the massive launch vehicle that SpaceX is developing to fly into deep space, with a simple message: "#OccupyMars".

Musk called Maezawa a "very courageous person" to take the flight to the moon.

Forbes estimates Maezawa is worth $2.9 billion, so he's got deep pockets to bankroll his art addiction and space ambitions.

Maezawa did not immediately say who would be on his guest list for the spaceflight, but in response to a question from a reporter he said he would consider inviting Musk.

The reusable 118-meter (387-foot) rocket will have its own dedicated passenger ship.

That mission, the Apollo 17, included a crew made up of Commander Eugene Cernan, Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans, and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt.

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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 trip to the moon will be made on board a BFR, which is now still in development.

"Maybe we'll both be on it", Elon Musk said after Maezawa's invitation.

Sixteen successful missions for SpaceX this year is a bright spot in an otherwise tumultuous few months for Musk, who is also chairman and chief executive officer of electric-car maker Tesla Inc.

Maezawa made his fortune by building up Start Today, an e-commerce business that includes a popular online clothing site in Japan.

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 previous year.

The era of space tourism began in 2001, when California businessman Dennis Tito paid for a journey on a Russian rocket to the International Space Station.

"These are all artists that I adore, but sadly they are no longer with us", he said. He would be the first private citizen ever to travel so far. But as he rode the train for an hour and a half every morning from his home in Japan's Chiba prefecture, he told the Times in London he started noticing how all the people headed to their jobs appeared to be "tired and unhappy".

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