A Japanese art collector and billionaire fashion entrepreneur is paying SpaceX an undisclosed but "significant" amount to charter a flight around the moon as early as 2023 aboard the company's planned BFR rocket, a mission that will include a half-dozen other invited artists for what would be the first privately funded moon mission.
"Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon," said Yusaku Maezawa, founder of ZoZotown, one of Japan's largest retail websites. "Just staring at the moon filled my imagination. That is why I could not pass up this opportunity to see the moon up close."
At the same time, he said, "I did not want to have such a fantastic experience by myself. That would be a little lonely. I don't like being alone, so I want to share this experiences with as many people as possible. That is why I choose to go to the moon with artists! I choose to invite artists from around the world on my journey."
Speaking to journalists and SpaceX employees at the rocket company's Hawthorne, Calif., factory, standing at the base of a Falcon 9 rocket in front of its nine engine nozzles, Maezawa said he is considering who might be invited, but no decisions have been made.
"In 2023 as the host, I would like to invite six to eight artists from around the world to join me on this mission to the moon," he said. "These artists will be asked to create something after they return to Earth. And these masterpieces will inspire the dreamer within all of us."
SpaceX founder and chief designer Elon Musk would not disclose how much Maezawa is paying for the trip, but said it was a "non-trivial" amount that will help fund the company's new BFR rocket, a huge, futuristic looking finned spacecraft designed to eventually accommodate up to 100 passengers on flights to the moon, Mars or beyond.
Musk said Maezawa, who booked an entire BFR for the planned moon flight, is "a very brave person to do this."
"This is dangerous," Musk said. "This is no walk in the park here. When you're pushing the frontier, it's not a sure thing. It's not like taking an air flight somewhere. There's some chance something could go wrong (but) we'll do everything we can to minimize that."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.