SpaceX Plans Civilian Flight Around Moon for Billionaire

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa talks about his plans to bring six to eight people with him when he takes a commercial trip around the moon on a SpaceX rocket

Maezawa, an art lover and collector, said he will take six to eight artists with him. He said he often mused about what artists like Basquiat or Andy Warhol might have come up with if they'd traveled into space. After launch, the BFR will make several course corrections and complete one loop around the moon before returning to Earth, where it will land upright, in a maneuver SpaceX has pioneered with its Falcon 9 rockets.

Maezawa has chartered a flight aboard the company's Big Falcon Rocket, which is still being developed, for a slingshot trip around the Moon as soon as 2023. "So, I choose to go to the moon with artists", he said. The idea is for those creative minds to see the moon up close and planet Earth from afar.

"I love art. And I'm very much looking forward to seeing what different artists getting together could bring to life", he said.

"It's not 100 per cent certain we can bring this to flight", Mr Musk said of the lunar mission.

Musk would not reveal the cost of the trip, but said the Japanese businessman outlaid a significant deposit and will have a material impact on the cost of developing the BFR.

In the meantime, Maezawa and Musk have promised to update the public with the latest updates about the Moon mission in the coming years.

Some of the Apollo missions orbited without landing, as this one will. Astronauts last visited the moon during NASA's Apollo program.

On plans to send "space tourists" to the moon SpaceX said in early 2017.

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Forbes ranks Maezawa as the 18th richest person in Japan.

Branson's Virgin Galactic has sold tickets for about $250,000, which is more than the median home price in the United States.

It's not the same mission SpaceX founder Elon Musk outlined past year. He is best known elsewhere for paying a record $110 million past year for a 1982 painting by the late Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The amount Mr 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.

Russian and Chinese companies are also working on space tourism plans.

SpaceX already has a long list of firsts, with its sights ultimately set on Mars. If all had gone according to schedule, SpaceX would now be gearing up for its first lunar flight, fulfilling its pledge early a year ago to launch a pair of tourists "faster and farther into the solar system than any before them".

He recently criticized analysts during a Tesla earnings conference call, labeled a British diver in the recent Thai cave rescue drama as a pedophile, took a hit off an apparent marijuana-tobacco joint during a podcast interview, and tweeted that he had funding to take Tesla private but then announced the deal was off.

At the time, SpaceX was to have used its heavy-lift Falcon Heavy rocket and the crewed version of the existing Dragon spacecraft.

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