A Japanese billionaire and online fashion tycoon, Yusaku Maezawa, will be the first man to fly on a monster SpaceX rocket around the Moon as early as 2023, and he plans to bring six to eight artists along.
Maezawa, 42, will be the first lunar traveler since the last US Apollo mission in 1972. He paid an unspecified amount of money for the privilege.
‘Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the Moon,’ Maezawa said at SpaceX headquarters and rocket factory in Hawthorne, California, in the middle of metropolitan Los Angeles, late Monday.
‘This is my lifelong dream.’
Maezawa is chief executive of Japan’s largest online fashion mall, and is the 18th richest person in Japan with a fortune of $3 billion, according to the business magazine Forbes.
A Japanese billionaire and online fashion tycoon, Yusaku Maezawa, will be the first man to fly on a monster SpaceX rocket around the Moon as early as 2023, and he plans to bring six to eight artists along
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk (left) shakes hands with Maezawa (right) after announcing him as the first private passenger on a trip around the moon
Billionaire bond: Maezawa climbs onto Musk’s shoulders in a photo posted on the SpaceX founder’s Twitter account
On his social media, Maezawa posted a photo of himself looking at the prototype of what is likely the rocket that will be used to launch him toward the moon
Maezawa made his fortune by founding ZOZO, an online clothing retailer which he started in Japan and built into a billion-dollar business
Maezawa’s other hobby is amassing valuable works of modern art and last year, he announced the acquisition of a Jean-Michel Basquiat masterpiece worth $110.5million.
His love of art led him to decide to invite artists to come along for the trip, he said.
‘I would like to invite six to eight artists from around the world to join me on this mission to the Moon,’ Maezawa said.
‘They will be asked to create something after they return to Earth. These masterpieces will inspire the dreamer within all of us.’
On his Instagram account, Maezawa posted a photo of himself looking at the prototype of what is likely the rocket that will be used to launch him toward the moon.
He wrote on his caption: ‘My mission to go around the moon, as the first private passenger, will represent the imagination and curiosity of all people.
‘I will make this a meaningful journey with SpaceX on the BFR launch vehicle.’
WHO IS YUSAKU MAEZAWA?
An undated file photo shows Yusaku Maezawa, 42, the founder and CEO of Zozo, Japan’s largest online fashion retailer
Before he became a billionaire fashion entrepreneur, Yusaku Maezawa was an indie rock band member who decided to skip college ‘after seeing all the tired faces on my morning commutes’ in Japan.
Born in 1975 in Chiba prefecture in Japan, Maezawa graduated from the prestigious Waseda Jitugyo High School in 1991.
It was there that he started SWITCH STYLE, an indie rock band which eventually released an EP in 1995.
After graduating, he followed his then-girlfriend to the United States, where he collected CDs and records of musicians he loved.
In 1995, he returned to Japan and started an import CD and record mail-order business.
His business succeeded, and he began to branch out.
In 2000, he created an online retail business. That same year, his band signed with BMG Japan and debuted an album.
His company, Start Today Inc, also began to sell clothing.
In 2004, Start Today began Zozotown, the site made a killing selling clothes from shops such as Japanese boutique United Arrows and minimal French label A.P.C.
Zozotown’s success turned its founder, Maezawa, into one of Japan’s richest entrepreneurs, and its name adorns a baseball stadium.
Born in 1975 in Chiba prefecture in Japan, Maezawa (seen above playing the drums) graduated from the prestigious Waseda Jitugyo High School in 1991. It was there that he started SWITCH STYLE, an indie rock band which eventually released an EP in 1995
The website set itself apart in its early days with a clean, uncluttered design and a slice of ‘Ura-Hara’ style – the modish fashion of the backstreets that line the trend-setting Harajuku district of Tokyo.
Business took off as fashion-conscious professionals in their late twenties and early thirties started using Zozotown to buy trendy but work-appropriate threads online from labels such as United Arrows and Nano Universe.
Its target is now broader, selling over 6,800 brands including clothes by Shimamura Co Ltd, one of Japan’s largest mass market chains. But industry executives say it still has an enviable cachet.
It continued to grow until 2007, when it went public and was listed in Tokyo Mothers Market.
In recent years, Maezawa has used his wealth to buy famous and pricey works of art.
In 2016, he spent $57.2million for a piece by Jean-Michel Basquiat.
He’s also bought works by Christopher Wool, one of which he paid $13.9million, as well as Richard Prince.
In 2007, Maezawa spent $9.7million on Prince’s ‘Runaway Nurse’, which was a record.
He also paid $6.9million for ‘Lobster,’ by Jeff Koons.
Maezawa’s dream is to buy up works of art and display them in his own private museum in his hometown of Chiba prefecture.
Until now, Americans are the only ones who have left Earth’s orbit.
A total of 24 NASA astronauts – all white men – voyaged to the Moon during the Apollo era of the 1960s and ’70s. Twelve walked on the lunar surface.
The first space tourist was Dennis Tito, an American businessman who in 2001 paid some $20million to fly on a Russian spaceship to the International Space Station.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk described Maezawa as the ‘bravest’ and ‘best adventurer.’
‘He stepped forward,’ Musk added. ‘We are honored that he chose us.’
Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla Motors, has drawn attention in recent months over his erratic behavior
Musk said he would not reveal the price Maezawa paid for the Moon trip, but said it would be ‘free for the artists.’
‘This is dangerous, to be clear. This is no walk in the park,’ Musk cautioned.
‘When you are pushing the frontier, it is not a sure thing. There is a chance something could go wrong.’
The ride will take place aboard a Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), which may not be ready for human flight for five years at least, Musk said.
The BFR was first announced in 2016, and was touted as the most powerful rocket in history, even more potent than the Saturn V Moon rocket that launched the Apollo missions five decades ago.
Last year, Musk said the BFR’s admittedly ‘ambitious’ goal was to make a test flight to Mars in 2022, followed by a crewed flight to the Red Planet in 2024.
This isn’t the first time Musk has vowed to send tourists around the Moon. Last year, he said two paying tourists would circle the Moon in 2018, but those plans that did not materialize.
Musk showed off designs of the 129 yard-long BFR, which will consist of a first stage with engines and fuel systems, and a second stage with the spacecraft where the passengers will ride.
Like SpaceX’s existing rockets, the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, the first stage can detach from the rest of the rocket and return to Earth for an upright landing.
The spacecraft will continue on toward the Moon, powered by its own engines.
The BFR spacecraft’s shape is reminiscent of the space shuttle, the bus-like US spaceships that carried astronauts to space 135 times from 1981 to 2011.
Musk has said he wants the BFR’s vessel to be able to hold around 100 people, and that the launch system could one day be used to colonize the Moon and Mars in order to make humans a ‘multi-planetary’ species.
This artist’s illustration courtesy of SpaceX shows the SpaceX BFR (Big Falcon Rocket) rocket passenger spacecraft
The shape of SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket, shown in an artist’s illustration, is reminiscent of the space shuttle
Whatever the details, SpaceX is touting an experience considerably more ambitious than space tourism plans under development by other private companies.
Virgin Galactic, founded by British tycoon Richard Branson, and billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s rocket company Blue Origin, are working on trips to the edge of space that could offer tourists a chance at weightlessness for 10 minutes or so.
Virgin’s trip will cost about $250,000. Blue Origin’s price has not been revealed.
Russian and Chinese companies are also working on space tourism plans.
Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla Motors, has drawn attention in recent months over his erratic behavior.
He has alleged that a cave diver in Thailand who helped rescue stranded boys was a ‘pedo,’ smoked what appeared to be marijuana on a comedian’s podcast, spooked Tesla investors with comments about the future of the electric car maker, and admitted to exhaustion and use of the sleeping pill Ambien.
But so far this year, his space firm has also kept up a schedule outpaced only by the Chinese government, making 15 launches with its Falcon 9 rocket.
Next year, SpaceX – which has received billions in NASA funding to ferry supplies to the ISS and build a crew vehicle – hopes to become the first private company to send astronauts to the space station.