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HAWTHORNE, Calif. — A Japanese billionaire who wants to take his love of art to the heavens will be the first private passenger to fly around the moon, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced Monday.
Musk introduced Yusaku Maezawa, founder of the international custom-fit clothing company Zozo and an avid art collector, as the one who is investing in the spaceship project in order to take the trip, possibly in 2023.
“This is dangerous. This is not a walk in the park,” Elon Musk warned at a crowded press conference at the rocket maker’s headquarters near Los Angeles International Airport. “There are chances something go wrong” and “you have to be a brave person to do that.”
Maezawa appear unfazed, talking about fusing his love of art and expression and a lifelong dream of going into space aboard SpaceX’s BFR rocket.
No one has gone to the moon since the Apollo astronauts, with the last trip in 1972. Some 24 of them made the trip, but none were a private citizen. Neither Musk nor Maezawa would say how much he is sinking into the project. Musk said, however, that the down payment alone was “significant.”
The BFR rocket and spaceship is being designed as the most ambitious space project ever created, a precursor to a mission to Mars. Instead of a capsule, the BFR’s spaceship has fins like those in 1950s science-fiction movies and looks something like a sleeker version of America’s now-retired space shuttles.
It will seat about a dozen, so that’s how Maezawa can bring his artist friends.
“I can tell you that I choose to go to the moon,” said Maezawa, apologizing for his English. “I choose to go to the moon with artists.”
The BFR, for Big Falcon Rocket, will make a single swing around the moon. The trip is 240,000 miles one way and will take four or five days.
So far, Musk said the BFR project is a relatively small project within SpaceX, which has become a major space launch firm for satellites and to resupply the International Space Station. He said the top priority is getting ready to be able to send astronauts to the space station. Those missions will depend on SpaceX’s proven Falcon rockets.
Besides its 60 successful blastoffs, it is developing the Dragon 2 space capsule for the space station missions.
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