The first space tourist SpaceX will be a Japanese billionaire

The first space tourist SpaceX will be a Japanese billionaire

Yusaku Meazawa will be the first paying passenger aboard a SpaceX rocket going to the moon, Elon Musk announced last night.

Maezawa is the founder of Zozotown, Japan's largest online fashion mall.

That original mission would have used a Falcon Heavy rocket - the most powerful rocket flying today - and a Dragon crew capsule similar to the one NASA astronauts will use to fly to the International Space Station as early as next year. Calling it a "dangerous mission" and "not a walk in the park", he said SpaceX will complete several test flights before putting humans on the rocket.

Maezawa said he wants his guests for the lunar orbit "to see the moon up close, and the Earth in full view, and create work to reflect their experience".

The mission, which is now planned for 2023, will mark the first visit to the Moon by humans since NASA's Apollo 17 landing in 1972.

The identity of the traveler will be revealed at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, during an event Monday evening.

Mr Maezawa made headlines previous year after paying $110.5m for a painting by the late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat at an auction in NY.

Forbes magazine estimates Maezawa's wealth at $2.9 billion.

Musk had previously said he wanted 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. "So, I choose to go to the Moon with artists".

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"It's unsafe to be clear", Musk said.

SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said last week that there was "no chance" that Musk's conduct will impact SpaceX's ability to win contracts, and that there's been "no impact at all" on the level of confidence in him on the part of the closely held company's backers.

Maezawa is a rarity in Japan: a billionaire who shuns suits and encourages his employees to have fun. He will be the eighth space tourist in history, and the first to orbit the moon. He did suggest like maybe that I would join on this trip.

Musk's vision of an interplanetary future may be somewhere in between dreams and delusion, but at the very least he has helped inspire a new generation of enthusiasts, the way the Apollo era did in the 1960s.

On its website, SpaceX is touting the "first passenger on lunar BFR mission", implying there will be more. Bezos' Blue Origin has been tight-lipped about the price of its tickets, but Reuters reported in July that they could cost in the $200,000 range.

Musk later reversed course, saying the company no longer has plans to certify the Falcon Heavy for human spaceflight.

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

Musk's successes have recently been overshadowed by his behavior and the struggles of his Tesla electric auto company to deliver. He is the first to book a trip as a private passenger with the commercial space company for a voyage that hasn't been attempted since NASA's Apollo missions ended in 1972.

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