Japanese Billionaire ID'd as Planned SpaceX Moon Traveler

posted by City News Service - 

HAWTHORNE (CNS) - Japanese billionaire clothing retailer Yusaku Maezawa was introduced today as the passenger on a planned private trip around the moon on a spacecraft designed by Hawthorne-based aerospace company SpaceX.

SpaceX officials announced last week that it had reached an agreement to send a private citizen on a voyage around the moon, making the person the first to travel to the moon since 1972, even though the trip won't include an actual landing on the lunar surface.

But the name of the passenger wasn't announced until Monday night, during a webcast announcement from SpaceX's Hawthorne facility.

“I choose to go to the moon,” Maezawa told the cheering crowd after he was introduced by SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon,” he said. “Just staring at the moon filled my imagination. ... That is why I could not pass up this opportunity to see the moon up close, and at the same time, I did not want to have such a fantastic experience by myself.”

Maezawa said he plans to invite six to eight artists to go on the trip with him.

“These artists will be asked to create something after they return to Earth,” he said.

He said he hasn't yet decided which artists he plans to invite, but he joked, “if you should hear from me, please say yes and accept my invitation.”

The trip is tentative set to occur in 2023. The amount that Maezawa paid for the trip was not disclosed.

In February 2017, SpaceX announced that two “private citizens” had “paid a significant deposit” for a trip around the moon. It's unclear if Maezawa was one of those people.

SpaceX noted in its announcement last week that “only 24 humans have been to the moon in history. No one has visited since the last Apollo mission in 1972.”

The company is still developing the BFR rocket, which will power the mission. The BFR will be the successor to SpaceX's oft-used Falcon 9 rocket and its upgraded version, the Falcon Heavy. The BFR (Big Falcon Rocket) is being developed in a SpaceX facility at the Port of Los Angeles. Musk has said previously he hoped the rocket would be ready for a trip to Mars by 2022.

The moon travelers will be carried around the moon in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, which is also still in development. It is scheduled for an unmanned demonstration launch in November. The first manned flight is expected in April 2019 -- a demonstration flight carrying two NASA astronauts. Following those demonstrations, the Crew Dragon is expected to be used to carry two more NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

During Monday night's announcement, Musk said the whole purpose of SpaceX is to “help advance rocket technology to the point where we could potentially become a multi-planet species,” and to “extend life beyond Earth and do so as quickly as we can.”

Maezawa, 42, built his fortune first through a mail-order album business called Start Today. He also began selling clothing online and established the site Zozotown, the largest of its type in Japan. Forbes has ranked him as the 14th richest person in Japan with a net worth of about $3.6 billion.

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