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Japan’s fashion guru Maezawa lands first SpaceX moon flight

Hitching the bandwagon to moon: Yusaku Maezawa is tentatively planning to make his moon flight in 2023 aboard SpaceX’s forthcoming Big Falcon Rocket spaceship.   | Photo Credit: AFP

SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space transportation company, has announced that its first private passenger on a voyage around the moon will be Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, the founder and chief executive of online fashion retailer Zozo.

A former drummer in a punk band, Maezawa is tentatively planning to make his moon flight in 2023 aboard SpaceX’s forthcoming Big Falcon Rocket spaceship, taking the race to commercialise space travel to new heights.

Only 24 astronauts have flown beyond earth’s protective magnetic shield, in missions spanning a four-year period from December 1968 to December 1972.

Mr. Maezawa’s name was revealed at an event recently at the company’s headquarters and rocket factory in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne.

“He’s a very brave person to do this,” Mr. Musk said of the Japanese entrepreneur.

Most famous outside Japan for his record-breaking $110-million purchase of an untitled 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, Mr. Maezawa said he would invite six-to-eight artists to join him on the lunar fly-by.

The billionaire chief executive of electric car-maker Tesla Inc. Mr. Musk said the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR, the super heavy-lift launch vehicle that he promises will shuttle passengers to the moon and eventually fly humans and cargo to mars, could be conducting its first orbital flights in two-to-three years.

Mr. Musk has previously said he wants the rocket to be ready for an unpiloted trip to Mars in 2022, with a crewed flight in 2024, though his ambitious production targets have been known to slip.

“It’s not 100% certain we can bring this to flight,” Mr. Musk said of the lunar mission.

Payment not disclosed

The amount Mr. Maezawa is paying for the trip was not disclosed, but the tech entrepreneur told Reuters the total sum was “much higher” than the cost of a Basquiat painting.

Mr. Musk said Mr. Maezawa had outlaid a significant deposit and would have a material impact on the cost of developing the BFR, which he estimated at about $5 billion.

Restless billionaire

The 42-year-old Mr. Maezawa is one of Japan’s most colourful executives and is a regular fixture in the country’s gossipy weeklies with his collection of foreign and Japanese art, fast cars and celebrity girlfriend.

Mr. Maezawa made his fortune by founding the wildly popular shopping site Zozotown. His company, Zozo, officially called Start Today Co Ltd., also offers a made-to-measure service using a polka dot bodysuit, the Zozosuit.

In a country known for its staid corporate culture, the businessman is one of a small group of mould-breaking billionaires widely recognised by the general public.

With SpaceX, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic battling it out to launch private-sector spacecraft, Mr. Maezawa will join a growing list of celebrities and the ultra-rich who have secured seats on flights offered on the under-development vessels.

Celebrities sign up

Those who have signed up to fly on Virgin Galactic sub-orbital missions include actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop star Justin Bieber.

A 90-minute flight costs $2,50,000.

Short sightseeing trips to space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket are likely to cost around $200,000 to $300,000, at least to start, Reuters reported in July.


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Printable version | Aug 3, 2021 3:26:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/japans-fashion-guru-maezawa-lands-first-spacex-moon-flight/article25016183.ece

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