Elon Musk names Japanese billionaire for around-the-moon space trip

BFR_SpaceX

It's a risky investment 42-year-old Maezawa is willing to make for a shot at a lunar legacy.

Elon Musk's company SpaceX unveiled its plans to send the first private passenger around the moon.

While space flight is a more risky proposition - with Maezawa in his late 40s by 2023 - he said there are no training plans yet in place. They will travel on a free return trajectory, carrying the BFR to the moon's far side, the side never seen from Earth, then back to Earth again.

SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk, left, shakes hands with Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, right, on Monday, after announcing that he will be the first private passenger on a trip around the moon. "I choose to go to the moon with artists!" said at the unveiling. Musk revealed that Maezawa was one of the original customers, but that the Falcon Heavy would only be able to take 2 people around the Moon. Taking the enormous personal risk of orbiting the moon as the first private citizen would cement him in history books.

In moves typical of his publicity-seeking style, Musk, who is also the billionaire chief executive of electric auto maker Tesla Inc, had previously teased a few tantalising details about the trip and the passenger's identity, but left major questions unanswered.

In an interview in March, Musk said the ship was now being built, adding "I think we'll probably be able to do short flights, short sort of up-and-down flights, probably sometime in the first half of next year". "We are honored that he chose us".

According to the New York Times, Maezawa "may be best known" for his $US110 ($154) million purchase of a 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting of a skull, a sum that his sister Lisane Basquiat referred to as leaving the family "speechless".

Big Falcon Rocket
Big Falcon Rocket

But Maezawa brings more than high-energy enthusiasm to the project, the undisclosed amount he will pay is critical to whether it actually happens at all.

Shares of his company Start Today fell as much as 4.7% after the announcement, before narrowing its slide to 0.6% in Tokyo.

In 2016, Musk predicted that one of his Dragon crew capsules would land on Mars this year - although that particular project was abandoned.

Nevertheless, Musk said the Japanese billionaire actually chose his company for the Lunar mission, and not the other way around. You have to be pretty loaded to score a tourist spot on a spaceship. Maezawa first mentioned in a Twitter post in 2015 that his "eyes were opened", after touring NASA and talking to astronauts. A year later, he told Japan's Newspicks online magazine he wanted to try his hand in space.

In April, he tweeted that space is one of his main "hobbies", along with art and wine. "It's always there and continues to inspire humanity". "At the same time, I did not want to have such a fantastic experience by myself". Maezawa said that he did not want to go alone. SpaceX did not reveal how much Maezawa paid, but just getting to low-Earth orbit costs a pretty penny. "When you are pushing the frontier, it is not a sure thing".

If they had gone to space, how would the world have looked today?

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