SpaceX reveals first private moon flight passenger

James Marshall
September 20, 2018

Maezawa, who at 42 is also a major art collector, will invite six to eight artists from a variety of fields on the week-long trip to inspire future works of art. 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. He paid an unspecified amount of money for the privilege.

NASA plans to launch astronauts on a trip into an orbit beyond the moon during the second flight of the agency's new Space Launch System rocket in the 2022 timeframe, almost 55 years after Apollo 8.

Maezawa is chief executive of Japan's largest online fashion mall, and is the 18th richest person in Japan with a fortune of $3 billion, according to the business magazine Forbes.

Elon Musk has revealed the identity of the billionaire who has paid to fly around the moon in a SpaceX rocket - in what is a giant leap for space tourism.

Elon Musk and his rocket company, SpaceX, plan to launch a private passenger named Yusaku Maezawa around the moon.

His most expensive purchase was for a large piece by Jean-Michel Basquiat for $110.5m (£84m), a record for the USA artist.

The average distance from Earth to the moon is about 237,685 miles (382,500 kilometres). BFR will be a massive beast standing nearly 387-feet tall, about the same height as the Saturn V rocket NASA used to go to the moon. Astronauts last visited the moon during NASA's Apollo program. "Twelve walked on the lunar surface" he added.

If all goes according to plan, Maezawa and his artist crew could become the first-ever private lunar tourists in history. The space agency also aims to build a staffed gateway near the moon during the 2020s. Vice President Mike Pence has advocated a return to the moon, telling the National Space Council in October that it could serve as a steppingstone to Mars.

Musk outlined a somewhat different SpaceX lunar mission a year ago.

No guidance has been given on when the moon flight could happen. Last year, he said two paying tourists would circle the Moon in 2018, but those plans that did not materialize.

In February, SpaceX captivated the world with the launch of its Falcon Heavy Rocket, the most powerful operational rocket in the world. While the rockets SpaceX has been sending into space aren't the sort capable of flying to the moon or Mars, they are capable of ferrying cargo safely to the ISS in Earth orbit and mostly returning to Earth in one piece.

Musk's successes have recently been overshadowed by his behavior and the struggles of his Tesla electric auto company to deliver.

Before Monday's announcement, Musk last publicly described the BFR and showed renderings of the system at the 2017 International Aeronautical Congress.

The British diver, Vernon Unsworth, sued Musk for defamation on Monday and is seeking more than $75,000.

When asked about Boeing Co CEO Dennis Muilenburg's prediction that the first humans will be carried to Mars on a Boeing rocket, Musk responded, "Game on", to the sound of cheers from employees assembled at the event. The device wasn't used and in the interview, Unsworth called it a "PR stunt" and said it wouldn't have worked to free the boys who were trapped in the flooded cave.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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