Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa signed with SpaceX to fly around the moon on the company’s next-generation rocket, CEO Elon Musk announced on Monday. Maezawa will attempt to be the first to return to the moon in nearly half a century, launching aboard a Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), which SpaceX is developing. BFR is the flagship for Musk’s vision of creating a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars, and testing on the behemoth rocket is expected to begin next year.
One of the richest people in Japan, Maezawa made his fortune as the founder of online retailers Start Today and Zozotown. Asked why he wants to go to the moon, Maezawa said: “Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon. It’s always there and continues to inspire humanity.”
SpaceX announced in February 2017 that two passengers would be flying around the moon in the company’s Crew Dragon capsule, launched by its Falcon Heavy rocket. But earlier this year, Musk said SpaceX was considering using BFR instead and on Monday confirmed that Maezawa is “the same person” who was announced before, just with a larger group now onboard.
“To be clear. This is dangerous…. it’s not a sure thing… there are some chances things could go wrong,” Musk reiterated.
He refused to reveal the amount Maezawa paid for the mission, saying he was “not disclosing the amount but he’s paying a very significant amount of money.” Only two dozen people have ever been to the moon, with the final Apollo mission in 1972 marking the last time a human visited the moon.
“I choose to go to the moon with artists,” he added. “In 2023, as the host, I would like to invite 6 to 8 artists from around the world to join me on this mission to the Moon.” He hasn’t decided which artists to bring yet.
Over the last month, he teased this announcement in several tweets, starting when he said there was a “big announcement” coming “about mid-September.” Then, the day after SpaceX said it would soon announce a passenger signed to fly to the moon, Maezawa tweeted “there are no limits.”
Maezawa tweeted twice again, on each of the two days before Musk’s announcement, with a picture of a wristwatch with the caption “it’s time” and a black photo with only the word “imagine” with the caption “never stop.” The Japanese entrepreneur was also in Florida at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to watch the maiden launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, tweeting a video and congratulations to Musk on “the historic moment.”