Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa first paying passenger on SpaceX 2023 moon flight

Credit: David McNew

Credit: David McNew

It’s been 50 years since Apollo 8 left low Earth orbit on a trajectory for the moon, becoming the first manned mission to orbit the moon and return safely home. NASA’s moon mission program ended in 1972, effectively ending human exploration of Earth’s nearest neighbor … until now.

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SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced a plan for a new commercial space flight around the moon several years ago and Monday, in Hawthorne, California, Musk announced his first paying passenger on a planned 2023 flight around the moon.

Japanese entrepreneur, billionaire and globally renowned art collector Yusaku Maezawa is that passenger.

Yusaku, one of the richest people in Japan, said he’s been obsessed with going to the moon for as long as he can remember.

“Ever since I was a kid, I loved the moon,” he said.

“Throughout the ages the moon has fulfilled our imagination.”

Yasaku’s down payment for the flight is helping with the development of the flight system and booster, Musk said, although neither Musk nor Yasaku will reveal how much the billionaire art lover is paying for the flight.

“He is the, I think, bravest person and most willing to do so and he was the best adventurer, I think. He stepped forward to do it,” Musk said in complimenting the Japanese entrepreneur.

“He’s ultimately paying for the average person to be able to go.”

Musk admitted that SpaceX may not be able to meet the 2023 deadline for a passenger flight around the moon.

“This is a dangerous mission. It’s definitely dangerous,” he said.

Musk said many test flights are planned ahead of the scheduled launch in 2023.

“First orbital flight in two to three years. We’ll do many such test flights before putting any people onboard.” He also said a test flight around the moon would probably be needed before the actual flights with humans aboard.

Yasaku said he will take eight other people along with him on the flight, eight artists. He said he wants to invite renowned artists who can understand the beauty of what they’ll see on the trip, but he said has not yet chosen them or extended any invitations.

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