Japanese Billionaire Books First Moonshot Aboard SpaceX's 'Big Falcon Rocket'

Christopher Davidson
September 20, 2018

The 42-year-old Meazawa, billionaire founder of the largest Japanese online clothing retailer, Zozotown, won't actually land on the moon, but he'll fly around it.

Maezawa says the planned trip to space is a way "to inspire the dreamer in all of us".

"I did not want to have such a fantastic experience by myself, that would be a little lonely", he said. He said he often mused about what artists like Basquiat or Andy Warhol might have come up with if they'd traveled into space.

Maezawa's other hobby is amassing valuable works of modern art and past year, he announced the acquisition of a Jean-Michel Basquiat masterpiece worth $110.5mn.

"Finally, I can tell you that I choose to go to the moon", Maezawa said. Even Elon Musk had to be honest about the project, saying, "It's not 100% certain we can bring this to flight". He wouldn't disclose the price Maezawa is paying for the ride, but did say that the billionaire is funding "a material percentage" of the BFR system's estimated $5 billion development cost.

After an uncrewed demonstration flight this fall and an in-flight abort test, U.S. Air Force Colonel Bob Behnken and former Marine Corps test pilot Doug Hurley will be the first two astronauts to fly in SpaceX's Crew Dragon. Some of the Apollo missions orbited without landing, as this one will.

The announcement was made at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on Tuesday. The space agency also aims to build a staffed gateway near the moon during the 2020s.

In 2008, Markowsky formally announced that he wanted to paint on the surface of the moon by 2030.

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Forbes ranks Maezawa as the 18th richest person in Japan. In 2012, he started the Tokyo-based Contemporary Art Foundation to support young artists. He is an avid art collector, and in 2016 he spent $80 million on paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Pablo Picasso, two artists he cited as inspirations during Monday's event.

A year later, he paid more than $110 million auction for another piece by the same artist. Sixteen successful missions for SpaceX this year is a bright spot in an otherwise tumultuous few months for Musk, who is also chairman and chief executive officer of electric-car maker Tesla Inc. Musk did not name the clients previous year or say how much they would pay.

According to The New York Times, seven people have paid to go to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz rocket.

The company noted that the trip will last about a week.

SpaceX already has a long list of firsts, with its sights ultimately set on Mars. 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.

In the past few months, Musk has lashed out at analysts during an earnings call for Tesla, his electric vehicle company, for asking "boring, bonehead questions".

Earlier on Monday it emerged that Mr Musk was being sued for defamation over his repeated claims that a British cave diver was a child abuser.

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