Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has said that he plans to blast off on the first-ever private commercial trip around the moon and will invite six to eight artists, architects, designers and other creative people on the week-long journey.
The SpaceX Big Falcon Rocket is scheduled to make the trip in 2023, company founder Elon Musk announced at an event Monday at its headquarters near Los Angeles.
Mr Maezawa, 42, said he wants his guests for the lunar orbit “to see the moon up close, and the Earth in full view, and create work to reflect their experience”.
Mr Musk said the entrepreneur, founder of Japan’s largest retail website and one the country’s richest people, will pay “a lot of money” for the trip, but declined to disclose the exact amount.
Mr Maezawa came to SpaceX with the idea for the group flight, Mr Musk said.
“I did not want to have such a fantastic experience by myself,” said Mr Maezawa, wearing a blue sports jacket over a white T-shirt with printed with a work by the late painter Jean-Michel Basquiat.
He said he often mused about what artists like Basquiat or Andy Warhol might have come up with if they had travelled into space.
“I wish to create amazing works of art for humankind,” Mr Maezawa said.
Mr Maezawa did not immediately say who will be on his guest list for the spaceflight, but in response to a question from a reporter he said he would consider inviting Mr Musk.
“Maybe we’ll both be on it,” Mr Musk said with a smile.
He said the BFR is still in development and will make several unmanned test launches before it takes on passengers. The reusable 387ft rocket will have its own dedicated passenger ship.
The mission will not involve a lunar landing.
The average distance from Earth to the moon is about 237,685 miles.
Astronauts last visited the moon during Nasa’s Apollo programme. Twenty-four men flew to the moon from 1968 through 1972 and half of them made it to the lunar surface.
Nasa is planning its own lunar flyby with a crew around 2023. The space agency also aims to build a staffed gateway near the moon during the 2020s.
The outpost would serve as a stepping-off point for the lunar surface, Mars and points beyond.
Mr Musk outlined a somewhat different SpaceX mission last year.
He said then that two people who know each other approached the company about a week-long flight to the moon and back. He had said that the trip would happen this year.
Mr Musk did not name the clients last year or say how much they would pay.
That original mission would have used a Falcon Heavy rocket — the most powerful rocket flying today — and a Dragon crew capsule similar to the one Nasa astronauts will use to fly to the International Space Station as early as next year.