Japanese fashion billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is going to be SpaceX’s first private passenger to fly around the Moon, Elon Musk revealed on Monday (September 17) at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
Maezawa, a known connoisseur of art, said he plans to invite six to eight artists from around the world to accompany him as he lifts-off onboard SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) to circumnavigate Earth’s only natural satellite, as early as 2023.
While he said his guests would include “artists I love,” he didn’t divulge any names.
He did, however, say that he would prefer his guests to be a mix of painters, musicians, film directors, sculptors, and the likes.
“I would like to invite six to eight artists from around the world to join me on this mission to the Moon,” said the 42-year-old tycoon.
“These artists will be asked to create something after they return to Earth,” he said, adding that “these masterpieces will inspire the dreamer within all of us.”
“What if Picasso had gone to the Moon? Or Andy Warhol or Michael Jackson or John Lennon?” he wondered aloud. “What about Coco Chanel? These are all artists that I adore.”
If all goes according to plan, Maezawa will be the first passenger, after a long gap of more than 45 years, to venture to the Moon.
All twenty-four humans to have visited the Moon, so far, have been Americans, with the last Apollo mission ending in 1972.
— Yusaku Maezawa 前澤友作 (@yousuck2020) September 18, 2018
Describing Maezawa as the “bravest” and “best adventurer,” Musk said, “We are honored that he chose us.”
He said that the mission was “no walk in the park” and could be, potentially, dangerous.
“When you are pushing the frontier, it is not a sure thing. There is a chance something could go wrong,” he said.
On being asked about the possibility of him being on board the BFR when it blasts off with the Japanese tycoon and his artist guests, Musk said he wasn’t sure, even though Maezawa did want him to tag along.
“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,” said the eccentric billionaire.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Maezawa insisted.
“Alright. Maybe we will both be on it,” Musk jokingly relented, amid much cheer and applause.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 18, 2018
Although Maezawa is believed to have made a significant down payment for the trip, which Musk says will “have a material effect on paying for cost and development of BFR,” neither party revealed what the trip would actually cost the Japanese tycoon.
“It makes a difference,” Musk said. “He puts his money where his mouth is. He’s legit.”
They did, however, confirm that the ride would be free for the accompanying artists, which was a given in any case, as you can’t invite guests and expect them to pay.
As of now, SpaceX doesn’t have any specific training plans to prepare Maezawa for the mission, as there is still time for that.
“Nothing is written in stone,” Maezawa said. “We are going to start discussion and decide here on forward.”
This is not the first time that Musk has announced his plans to carry paying passengers to the Moon.
Back in February 2017, he had said that SpaceX was planning to take two paying private citizens on a trip around the moon by the end of 2018.
He said that the launch vehicle would be the Falcon Heavy rocket while the Dragon crew capsule would host the passengers.
“Once operational Crew Dragon missions are underway for NASA, SpaceX will launch the private mission on a journey to circumnavigate the Moon and return to Earth. Lift-off will be from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Pad 39A near Cape Canaveral – the same launch pad used by the Apollo program for its lunar missions. This presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years and they will travel faster and further into the Solar System than any before them,” Musk said.
In regards to the identity of the two paying space passengers, he said that they were known to each other and were “nobody from Hollywood.”
He also said that the tourists had made a substantial deposit for the said trip and would be undergoing “extensive training” before they embarked on the first private trip around the Moon.
However, at the Falcon Heavy’s inaugural launch in February this year, Musk revealed that it would be the BFR that would carry passengers to the Moon, and ultimately to Mars, instead of the Falcon Heavy.
On Monday, Musk also revealed the updated design of the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR, which will include a gigantic rocket booster, on top of which will sit a massive spaceship called the Big Falcon Spaceship (BFS), capable of carrying a payload of up to 100 passengers.
The BFR and BFS together will stand 387 feet tall – almost as tall as a 40-story building – which is about the same size as the Saturn V rocket used by NASA for its Moon mission.
Powered by 31 main Raptor engines, the BFR will be able to generate 5,400 tons of thrust; good enough to go all the way to the Solar System, says Musk.
“If you have propellant depot on Mars, you’ll be able to get from Mars to the asteroid belt to the moons of Jupiter and kind of like a planet moon-hop all the way to the outer Solar System,” he said.
“BFR is intended as an interplanetary transport system capable of getting from Earth to anywhere in the Solar System,” he added.