Japanese billionaire and art collector to be first ‘moon tourist’

September 19, 2018 - 1:37 PM
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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk (L) shakes hands with Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa during a press conference about being the first SpaceX private passenger to circle the moon aboard SpaceX’s BFR launch vehicle, at the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, California, U.S. September 17, 2018. (REUTERS/Gene Blevins)

A Japanese billionaire is the first private citizen to sign up for a planned trip to the moon scheduled for 2023.

Elon Musk, owner and founder of privately-owned space exploration company SpaceX, announced that e-commerce tycoon Yusaku Maezawa has agreed to be the first passenger on the Big Falcon Rocket, a spacecraft under construction which is owned by his company and scheduled to launch in 2023.

The announcement was made at the SpaceX headquarters in California. The amount paid by Maezawa, the 18th richest Japanese person with an estimated personal net worth of close to $3 billion, has not yet been disclosed.

Maezawa, a former drummer for a punk band who later used his fortune to collect art, reportedly said that he wanted to travel to the moon “with artists” during the announcement.

The Big Falcon Rocket Maezawa will board has been estimated to cost up to $5 billion and will kick off SpaceX’s envisioned series of commercial outerspace ventures, which include a privately-funded exploration of the moon and trips to neighboring planet Mars.

Other private citizens are not surprised that the moon’s first tourist will be a billionaire.

Once the drummer for a band called Switch Style, the 42-year old Maezawa put aside his musical pursuits to focus on his business interests after they gained moderate success.

His fortune comes from his online retailing company Start Today, which originally sold vinyls and music CDs but later expanded to fashion with the launch of its subsidiary Zozotown.

Maezawa has raised eyebrows over the years for spending large sums of money on his art collection. He has spent a total of almost $200 million on his art purchases in the past two years, which include a $110 million painting by Jean Michel Basquiat.

Neither Maezawa nor SpaceX has confirmed the selection process for Maezawa’s plans to bring artists with him during the voyage on the Big Falcon Rocket, which is estimated to have a 100,000-kilogram payload capacity.

SpaceX founder Musk, also the owner of sustainable energy company Tesla and founder of online payment company PayPal, has been criticized for his controversial public speeches and accused of “overindulging” in his plans for the company to spearhead commercial space travel and the colonization of Mars.

Some have cautioned the U.S government from entering into defense and technology projects with SpaceX following a number of failed rocket launches in the recent years.