SpaceX plans to take Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to the moon

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If all goes according to plan, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will become the first space tourist to travel around the moon.

Maezawa, a 42-year-old entrepreneur and art collector who founded the online retailer Start Today Co. 3092, -1.22%   and the clothing brand Zozo, was announced as SpaceX’s first lunar customer by Chief Executive Elon Musk during a media event Monday night. Maezawa will be the first-ever lunar tourist, assuming SpaceX manages to launch the mission before rivals such as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.

“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon,” Maezawa said Monday. “This is my lifelong dream.”

He added that he’d like to invite six to eight artists to join him on his four- to five-day trip, which is planned to launch in 2023. Maezawa is a prominent art collector, who paid a record $110.5 million last year for a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting.

The cost of the trip was not divulged, but Musk admitted Maezawa is “paying a lot of money.” Maezawa is worth about $3 billion, according to Forbes.

The mission will use SpaceX’s BFR spacecraft — short for Big Falcon Rocket — essentially a massive booster rocket with a detachable spaceship attached. The BFR is expected to begin testing next year.

“If things go well,” Musk said, SpaceX “could be doing the first orbital flights in two or three years.”

Maezawa and whoever flies with him will join an exclusive club — only two dozen astronauts have ever visited the moon, and no one has been to the moon since the last Apollo mission in 1972.

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