A Japanese billionaire and online fashion tycoon, Yusaku Maezawa, will be the first man to fly on a monster SpaceX rocket around the Moon as early as 2023, and he plans to bring six to eight artists along.
Maezawa's trip to the moon will be made on board a BFR, which is now still in development.
At this year's South by Southwest hypefest in Austin, Texas, his Muskiness predicted that the first BFR flight would take place in 2019, although these would at first be strictly up and down takeoffs and landings to test out the system, so the 2023 date is flexible. SpaceX has pulled off feats no one thought possible, from the first successful launch to orbit a decade ago to earlier this year, when the maiden flight of its Falcon Heavy rocket put a Tesla Roadster on a trip toward Mars. "I wish to create fantastic works of art for humankind, for children of the next generation", he said. For this, he said, it is important to build technologies like the BFR that are capable of carrying a vast number of materials and resources.
These artists will be asked to "see the moon up close and the Earth in full view, and create works that reflect their experience". Today SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell was quoted as saying that the company had its "eyes on the prize" for an initial BFR flight to Mars in 2024, although she acknowledged that SpaceX's timelines often slip to the right. Maezawa's deposit for the lunar jolly was a "non-trivial" amount of money, which will help fund the BFR.
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With SpaceX, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and entrepreneur Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic battling it out to launch private-sector spacecraft, the SpaceX passenger will join a growing list of celebrities and the ultra-rich who have secured seats on flights offered on the under-development vessels.
The BFR has never flown, but Mr Musk has released some technical details about it. The company has previously created rockets that can be landed and reused, and it is working on its Dragon capsule to eventually carry astronauts to the ISS.
"I choose to go to the moon with artists".
The BFR was first announced in 2016, and was touted as the most powerful rocket in history, even more potent than the Saturn V Moon rocket that launched the Apollo missions five decades ago. With SpaceX, he's described his mission as nothing short of making humans a multi-planetary species. "I don't think it's more than 10 [billion dollars], and I don't think it's less than two" billion dollars, he said.