Yusaku Maezawa Is Going to the Moon with SpaceX: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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In a livestreamed press conference today, Elon Musk and SpaceX announced that Yusaku Maezawa is going to be the first private passenger to fly around the moon on board the BFR (Big Falcon Rocket.) SpaceX hopes that this momentous announcement will help pave the way for anyone to travel in space if they want to do so. Here is everything we know so far about Yusaku Maezawa and SpaceX’s lunar mission. This is a developing story.


1. Yusaku Maezawa Is Going to the Moon with SpaceX

Yusaku Maezawa is making history as the first private passenger to go on a trip around the moon, SpaceX announced today. The announcement was made during a livestreamed press conference from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California on Monday night, but some bots actually helped leak the information a little early. SpaceX noted earlier that this would be “an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space.”

Before the passenger was announced, the only clue we had was a tweet from Musk with an emoji of a Japanese flag, in response to a question about the person’s identity.

Yusaku Maezawa, born in 1975, is a Japanese billionaire and art collector. He started a band with classmates in 1991 called Switch Style and they released their first EP in 1993. He began collecting albums which became the basis of his first company. His first company sold imported albums and CDs via mail. This mail-order album business started a company called Start Today. In 2000, he moved Start Today to an online platform and became a public company that also sold clothing. Start Today continued to grow and by 2012, it was listed in the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s First Section.

The last astronauts to visit the moon were in 1972 as part of NASA’s Apollo program. In total, 24 people flew to the moon from 1968 to 1972, with half landing on the moon’s surface. NASA plans another flyby with a crew in 2023, and wants to build a staffed gateway near the moon sometime in the 2020s, ABC News reported.

Maezawa himself leaked the information a little early.


2. He Will Be the First Paying Customer for SpaceX’s BFR

SpaceX

Maezawa’s net worth is estimated to be $2.9 billion, according to Forbes. He founded Japan’s largest online fashion mall, Zozotown. He owns 38 percent of the mall’s parent company, Start Today. In 2016, he purchased paintings for $80 million by Pablo Picasso and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

His payment will be part of helping to fund BFR, Musk explained. “Any customers for BFR are incredibly helpful in funding the development of the rocket,” Musk said.

Maezawa said that promoting world peace is his lifelong dream.

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“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon,” he said. “…That is why I have not passed up this opportunity… But I did not want to have such a fantastic experience by myself. So I want to share this experience with as many people as possible. … That is why I choose to go to the moon with artists.”

Last year, two people approached Elon Musk and paid a significant deposit to fly around the moon but not land, ABC News reported. At the time, Musk said it would be a weeklong trip, but he did not name the two people or say how much they paid. He did say that they knew the risks and were “entering this with their eyes open.” That mission might have used a Falcon Heavy rocket and a Dragon crew capsule. At that time, Musk said that those passengers were not from Hollywood. The new plan is to use the BFR. At first it wasn’t known if the new passenger was one of those original two that Musk had mentioned, but Musk said in the press conference that Maezawa “chose us.” Then he appeared to clarify that yes, Maezawa was the original person who approached him, and they can now accommodate more people because they are traveling on the BFR rather than the Dragon. “Instead of two, you can have a dozen,” Musk said. “We’ll leave a lot of extra room for extra fuel and oxygen, food and water, spare parts, just in case.”

“He was the best adventurer,” Musk said about why they chose him. “He stepped forward to do it. We’re honored that he would choose us. This is not us choosing him. He’s a very brave person to do this. Because he’s paying a lot of money — we’re not disclosing the amount — …that will help with the development of the ship and booster…”

Ultimately, the BFR is intended to help carry anyone to the moon or Mars. Musk said that Maezawa is ultimately helping to pay for other people to go to the moon and Mars in the future. And he’s already made a down payment.

“This is dangerous,” Musk said. “This is no walk in the park here. This will require training… when you’re pushing the frontier, it’s not a sure thing. There’s some chance that something could go wrong. We’ll do everything we can to minimize that. But … you have to be a very brave person to do that. This is no small matter.”


3. He Wants to Bring Artists with Him to the Moon Through a Project Called ‘Dear Moon’

“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon,” he said. “…That is why I have not passed up this opportunity… But I did not want to have such a fantastic experience by myself. So I want to share this experience with as many people as possible. … That is why I choose to go to the moon with artists.”

So he’s created a project called #DearMoon. In 2023, he would like to invite six to eight artists from around the world to join him on a mission to the world, and they’ll be asked to create something when they return, inspiring dreams and hope.

He wants to include painters, sculptors, film directors, fashion designers, musicians, and other artists. He hasn’t picked them yet, he added.

“I hope to work very closely with the SpaceX team and reach out to the artists.” He added that if anyone hears from him, he hopes they’ll say yes to his invitation. You can follow his accounts on social media at @dearmoonproject to learn more.

The people who travel with him will all spend a week in space and see the moon together. They will then create works of art to commemorate their experiences.


4. The Big Falcon Spaceship Can Hold Around 100 Passengers, & the First Mission to the Moon Will Be Launched in 2023

This is just the beginning of SpaceX’s sending people into space. The passenger will be flying on the BFR, which will likely be carrying the Big Falcon Spaceship. This ship has room for 100 passengers and six engines of its own so it can land on the surface of other worlds, including the moon, The Verge reported. But Elon Musks’ new tweet of the BFS revealed seven engines. All design specs could be changed, and changes might even be announced today.

It’s not known yet how many other people will be flying with the passenger announced today, but he wants to bring at least six to eight artists with him.

Originally, SpaceX planned to send a crewed mission around the moon using the Falcon Heavy. But during the Falcon Heavy’s first flight last February, Musk said the plan had changed. SpaceX was now going to skip a Falcon Heavy trip to the moon and move on to the BFR instead.

The BFR hasn’t had its inaugural flight yet, but if the Falcon Heavy is any indication, the BFR is going to be amazing. It’s 118 meters long and is in development at the Port of Los Angeles, The Verge reported. SpaceX has tested a few pieces of hardware that will be used on the BFR, including propellant tanks and smaller-scale versions of its engines.

Musk hasn’t been shy about sharing details about the BFR. It’s technically a combination of a large booster rocket and the Big Falcon Spaceship. The rocket will use 31 Raptors, a new engine developed by SpaceX. Each Raptor produced 380,000 pounds of thrust, according to SpaceX, and the combination should allow SpaceX to put up to 100 tons into a low Earth orbit, The Verge reported.

But all design specs could be changed.


5. In August, NASA Announced Three Astronauts Who Will Fly with SpaceX

NASANASA Commercial Crew traveling with Boeing and SpaceX.

In August, NASA announced three astronauts who will fly with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon on its first mission to and from the International Space Station. NASA also assigned crew to the Boeing’s Starliner.

The Crew Dragon test flight astronauts are Robert Behnken from Missouri and Douglas Hurley from New York. The Crew Dragon will launch with a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida. This is not the same rocket that will launch the trip around the moon.

NASA’s first mission astronauts with the Crew Dragon will be Victor Glover from California and Michael Hopkins from Missouri. NASA’s announcement notes: “Additional crew members will be assigned by NASA’s international partners at a later date.”

These astronauts are part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. It’s not known if any of them will be aboard the ship that orbits the Moon, but no announcements have been made at this time indicating that to be the case.

This is a developing story.