SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has been pledging to send tourists to space ever since he started the company in 2002. On September 17, 2018, the visionary came one step closer to fulfilling his promise by signing up his first passenger – Japanese billionaire and entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa. If all goes according to plan, in 2023, Maezawa will become the first passenger and private astronaut to travel to the Moon. He will also join the elite group of just 24 humans who have been fortunate enough to see Earth’s satellite up close.
Maezawa, who has booked the entire spacecraft, will not be traveling alone. At the press conference held to make the announcement, the businessman said, “Ever since I was a kid I have loved the Moon, just staring at the Moon fueled my imagination, it's always there and has continued to inspire humanity. That is why I could not pass up this opportunity to see the Moon up close, but at the same time I did not want to have such a fantastic experience by myself, that would be a bit lonely. I want to share this experience with as many people as possible."
However, the founder of Japanese shopping website Zozotown does not plan to take family or friends on this historic “out of this world” excursion. Instead, the former drummer from the punk rock band Switch Style, says, “I would like to invite six to eight artists from around the world to join me on this mission to the Moon. These artists will be asked to create something after they return to Earth, and these masterpieces will inspire the dreamer within all of us.” Though the guest list has not been determined, he indicated they would be of the same caliber as geniuses such as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Michael Jackson, Coco Chanel, and John Lennon. "These are all artists that I adore, but sadly are no longer with us," Maezawa said. "This is when I thought, but there are so many artists with us today."
The mission, entitled #dearMoon, will be conducted in a Big Falcon Rocket (BSR). First announced by Musk in 2016, the reusable spacecraft, which is still in the early stages of development, is being designed such that it can be refueled both on Earth and in space. Standing 387 feet tall, its 31 main Raptor engines, fueled by liquid oxygen and methane, will provide 5,400 tons of thrust and be capable of carrying a payload of over 100 metric tons (220,000 lbs) to low-Earth orbit.
Though the details of the week-long mission have not been finalized, Musk expects the spacecraft to skim past the lunar surface, fly beyond it, and then pass close to the Moon again before heading back to Earth. To keep the passengers and crew entertained during the journey, the common areas will feature many fun zero-gravity, games.
Though Maezawa has already paid an undisclosed, and we suspect, large, deposit for the flight, Musk acknowledges there is a chance the mission may never happen. He says, "There are so many uncertainties, this is a ridiculously big rocket, it's got so much advanced technology. I mean, it's not 100 percent certain that we will succeed in getting this to flight. I mean, I think it's pretty likely, but it's not certain. We are going to do everything possible to get it to flight as quickly as we can and as safely as we can."
Given SpaceX’s previous achievements, which include landing an unmanned rocket upright for the first time, there is a strong possibility the mission will go exactly as planned. However, don’t expect Musk and his team to rest on their laurels for too long even if #dearMoon succeeds beyond everyone’s wildest expectations. They will be too busy preparing a spacecraft for their next mission – taking tourists to Mars!
Resources: newatlas.com,nbcnews.com,money.cnn.com, theverge.com