SpaceX will take a Japanese billionaire on a trip around the Moon

Katie Ramirez
September 18, 2018

SpaceX released this dramatic illustration of its BFR spacecraft with the moon.

Who will fly with the mystery passenger is among the many questions that Musk is likely to address during the announcement.

SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk speaks today at an event to announce the name of the person who would be the first private passenger on a trip around the moon in Hawthorne, Calif.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa speaks at the September 17 SpaceX event about his plans to fly artists around the moon on a BFR mission.

Maezawa has plenty of money to devote to this moon shot.

The Japanese billionaire is most famous outside Japan for his record-breaking $110 million purchase of an untitled 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting.

"Finally I can tell you that 'I choose to go to the moon, '" Maezawa said, echoing President John F. Kennedy's famous phrase.

Maezawa, a prolific collector of modern art, said he planned to bring six to eight artists with him aboard the BFR, which stands for Big Falcon Rocket.

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Maezawa declined to say how much he's paying for the flight, but Musk said it'll be free for the artists. He will ask them to create works based on their experience as part of a project called #dearMoon.

SpaceX said the journey would be "an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of travelling to space".

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. Musk said the estimated cost of the overall BFR development was about $5 billion.

The mission will not involve a lunar landing. "I wish to create awesome works of art for humankind, for children of the next generation", he said.

Maezawa's trip to the moon will be made on board a BFR, which is now still in development. The new design looks a bit like a streamlined, futuristic version of a NASA space shuttle. No one has been there since an Apollo mission in 1972. Two years later would mark the last time NASA astronauts would visit the lunar surface.

Musk says the BFR will act more like a sky diver than an airplane.

BFR will inevitably borrow heavily from almost a decade of designing, building, testing, launching, and upgrading 60+ Falcon 9 and Heavy rockets, all successes and failures included.

Besides the changed fins, with improve the aerodynamic control of the vehicle when entering an atmosphere, the updated spaceship now has seven Raptor engines identical to the ones on the booster stage.

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