Japanese Billionaire and Fashion Guru Maezawa First on SpaceX Moon Flight
SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space transportation company, on Monday named its first private passenger on a voyage around the moon as Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, the founder and chief executive of online fashion retailer Zozo. Maezawa is tentatively planning to make his moon flight in 2023 aboard SpaceX’s forthcoming Big Falcon Rocket spaceship, taking the race to commercialize space travel to new heights.
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 identity was revealed at an event on Monday evening at the company’s headquarters and rocket factory in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne.
“He’s a very brave person to do this,” Musk said of the Japanese entrepreneur. Most famous outside Japan for his record-breaking $110 million purchase of an untitled 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, Maezawa said he would invite six to eight artists to join him on the lunar flyby.
Musk has previously said he wants the rocket to be ready for an unpiloted trip to Mars in 2022, with a crewed flight in 2024, though his ambitious production targets have been known to slip. “It’s not 100 percent certain we can bring this to flight,” Musk said of the lunar mission.
The amount Maezawa is paying for the trip was not disclosed, but he told Reuters the total sum was “much higher” than the cost of a Basquiat painting. With SpaceX, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic battling it out to launch private-sector spacecraft, Maezawa will join a growing list of celebrities and the ultra-rich who have secured seats on flights offered on the under-development vessels.
Those who have signed up to fly on Virgin Galactic sub-orbital missions include actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop star Justin Bieber. A 90-minute flight costs $250,000. “If I’m going to go to space, I’d rather go as far as I can,” said Maezawa.