SpaceX Will Fly This Man Around the Moon in 2023
SpaceX, the space tourism venture by mega-inventor Elon Musk, announced the name of its first paying customer, who will be launched around in the company's Big Falcon Rocket (aka BFR, which is still in the works) for a flight around the moon.
Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese tech billionaire, said at a press conference on Monday night that he has submitted a down payment for the moon launch, which will reportedly take place in 2023. Neither SpaceX nor Maezawa disclosed the cost of the trip, but the price tag will likely not put too big of a dent in Maezawa's $2.9 billion e-commerce fortune.
Maezawa, a former rock musician who built his empire as an online fashion tycoon with his apparel website Zozotown, said he would be taking six to eight artists on the moon launch with him — free of charge, CNN reports.
"I want to share this experience and things with as many people as possible," Maezawa said at the press conference. "So, I choose to go to the moon with artists."
Speaking with Musk at the press conference, Maezawa called the moon trip a “lifelong dream,” and that out of the three major budding space tourism companies (including Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic), SpaceX seemed to be progressing the fastest, and he felt most comfortable with Musk. "I trust his company, his team and his BFR,” Maezawa said.
Musk added that the moon mission will take about four or five days, and once the BFR rocket is built, it will undergo a “bunch of test launches” before passengers would be allowed on board. SpaceX had previously been targeting its Falcon Heavy rocket and Crew Dragon capsule, developed under NASA, for the moon launch, but Musk has since revised the mission plan for the upcoming BFR rocket, which is estimated to cost somewhere around $5 billion, according to the LA Times.
All three major space tourism companies are inching closer to launching paying tourists into the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere. Richard Branson said earlier this year his Virgin Galactic was just "two or three flights away" from bringing passengers to space. The price tag for customers booking Virgin Galactic flights will clock in at $250,000 per ticket — or 2 million Virgin Atlantic miles will get you entered into a drawing for a space on a Virgin rocket.
SpaceX has launched 16 rockets so far this year — though none with paying passengers yet. In addition to the moon mission, Musk is setting out on a project to get humans into space to colonize Mars. Musk wants to send 1 million people to the Red Planet and expects SpaceX rockets to start reaching Mars in 2019.