Musk names Jap billionaire for 'dangerous mission' to moon

Yusaku Maezawa will fly round the moon

Yusaku Maezawa will fly round the moon

SpaceX expects Maezawa, 42, to be the first private passenger to make the journey that only two dozen astronauts have been on during the Apollo era that ended 46 years ago.

For an undisclosed sum, Maezawa chartered every ticket on the flight, which will take him and up to eight artists on a four- to five-day slingshot journey around the moon as soon as 2023 - the centerpiece to a project dubbed "Dear Moon".

Musk says the Big Falcon is still under development and will undergo several test launches before it takes on passengers.

"He's a very courageous person to do this", Mr Musk said of the Japanese entrepreneur.

In 2017, Musk stated, "We want to have one booster and ship that replaces Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon".

Maezawa's other hobby is amassing valuable works of modern art and past year, he announced the acquisition of a Jean-Michel Basquiat masterpiece worth $110.5mn.

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

The billionaire stood before the audience at SpaceX headquarters on Monday evening and was greeted with cheers as he proclaimed John F. Kennedy's famous line "I choose to go to the moon". He said, "As far as me going, I'm not sure".

Maezawa then said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah - please, please".

"Ever since I was a kid, I've loved the moon", said Maezawa, who was a drummer in a rock band and had spent six months in southern California as a teenager. He is also known for having dropped $110 million on a painting by the American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat previous year at a Sotheby's auction. "I don't know if they have the skills to translate that experience in a way that is digestible for the majority of people".

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SpaceX has already upended the space industry with its relatively low-priced reusable Falcon 9 rockets.

This isn't the first time Musk has vowed to send tourists around the Moon.

Shotwell also said the full rocket could reach orbit for the first time in 2020 and possibly deliver cargo to the Moon or Mars in 2022.

Musk estimated it would cost $5bn to build.

Could there be more than one billionaire aboard SpaceX's upcoming lunar fly-around mission?

Its plan to fly tourists around the moon has also been delayed. It aims to launch its first crewed mission to the space station in the second quarter of 2019.

Other space companies, like Virgin Galactic, founded by British tycoon Richard Branson, and billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos's rocket company Blue Origin, are working on trips to the edge of space that could offer tourists a chance at weightlessness for 10 minutes or so.

He made headlines in 2016 when he paid more than $57 million at auction for an untitled work by Basquiat.

SpaceX gave no details of the flight but said it would be "an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space".

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