SpaceX Announces First Private Passenger for Moon Trip

18 September, 2018

The American space-travel company SpaceX has announced that its first private passenger to the moon will be a Japanese businessman. Yusaku Maezawa is the creator and chief executive of the online clothing store Zozo.

Maezawa wants to take a trip around the moon using the planned Big Falcon Rocket in 2023. He also announced that he plans to invite six to eight artists, architects, designers and other creative people to join him. He said he wants to "inspire the dreamer in all of us."

Maezawa said he does not want to have the experience by himself. Instead, he wants his crew, "to see the moon up close, and the Earth in full view, and create work to reflect their experience."

Maezawa added that he often wondered what artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat or Andy Warhol might have created if they had traveled to space.

A former musician, Maezawa, is one of Japan's most colorful business leaders. He is regularly covered by Japanese media for his collection of foreign and Japanese art and fast cars. Maezawa also is known for having paid a record $110 million for an untitled 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Not 100 percent certain

Maezawa's identity was announced at an event on Monday evening at SpaceX's headquarters and rocket factory near Los Angeles.

At the event, Musk gave additional information about the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR, a reusable 118-meter rocket. He wants the rocket to send passengers to the moon and, later, Mars. Musk said that the BFR is still in development and will make several unmanned test launches before carrying passengers.

Musk also added that the BFR could be taking its first orbital flights in about two to three years. Earlier, he had said he wanted the rocket to be ready for an unmanned trip to Mars by 2022 and a crewed flight in 2024.

SpaceX's BFR launch vehicle is seen in this handout image provided Sept. 14, 2018.
SpaceX's BFR launch vehicle is seen in this handout image provided Sept. 14, 2018.

However, in the past, Musk has not always been able to meet planned target dates. "It's not 100 percent certain we can bring this to flight," Musk said of the lunar mission.

Musk said the development of the BFR is expected to cost about $5 billion. He did not say how much Maezawa is paying for the lunar trip. But he said that the Japanese businessman will make a significant pre-payment that will help the cost of development.

Space Tourism

Space tourism began in 2001 when businessman Dennis Tito paid for a trip on a Russian rocket to the International Space Station. The trip was organized by the Virginia-based company Space Adventures. The company has sent several more paying customers on spaceflights since then.

SpaceX is competing with two other companies for space tourism money. They are Blue Origin of Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos and Virgin Galactic of entrepreneur Richard Branson.

NASA is planning its own orbital trip to the moon with a crew in 2023. The U.S. space agency aims to build a manned space station near the moon during the 2020s.

The distance from Earth to the moon is about 382,500 kilometers. Astronauts last visited Earth's only natural satellite during NASA's Apollo program. Twenty-four men flew to the moon from 1968 through 1972, about half of them were able to reach the lunar surface.

I'm Phil Dierking

Reuters reported this story. Phil Dierking adapted it for Learning English, using additional materials. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

architect - n. a person who designs buildings

entrepreneur - n. a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money

headquarters - n. a place from which something (such as a business or a military action) is controlled or directed

inspire - v. to make (someone) want to do something

private sector - n. the part of an economy which is not controlled or owned by the government

significant - n. large enough to be noticed or have an effect