Yusaku Maezawa, Japanese Founder of Online Clothing Company, is SpaceX’s First Private Passenger Who Will Go on Trip Around the Moon

Elon Musk, left, the chief executive of SpaceX, introduced Yusaku Maezawa, the founder of the online fashion retailer Zozo, on Monday as the first customer for a trip around the moon with one of the company’s rockets.
Chris Carlson/Associated Press

Elon Musk on Monday evening introduced Yusaku Maezawa, founder of the online Japanese clothing company Zozo, as his first customer for a voyage around the moon aboard a SpaceX rocket.

“Finally, I can tell you that I choose to go the moon,” Mr. Maezawa shouted.

Mr. Maezawa’s intent to follow in the contrails of American astronauts, who first looped the moon in 1968 aboard the Apollo 8 mission, was announced at an event at the company’s headquarters in the Los Angeles area. The expensive trip would cost at least tens of millions of dollars, if not a couple of hundred million, and when it would occur was not yet announced. Neither Mr. Musk nor Mr. Maezawa would disclose the price.

Mr. Maezawa is to ride a yet-to-be-built rocket known as the B.F.R. on a journey that would take four to five days. The rocket would not be ready for the trip until 2023, Mr. Musk said, and would cost from $2 billion to $10 billion to develop. He added that Mr. Maezawa’s ticket would make a meaningful contribution to the project’s completion.

While SpaceX’s technological achievements are significant, Mr. Musk’s forecasts of SpaceX’s timelines have usually turned out to be far too optimistic.

Development of the Falcon Heavy rocket, for example, which finally made a maiden test flight in February, took more than four years longer than Mr. Musk had anticipated. And his earlier announcements had suggested that the B.F.R. would be ready for an uncrewed trip to Mars as soon as 2022.

This summer has been a tumultuous time for Mr. Musk and another of his companies, the electric carmaker Tesla. On Twitter, Mr. Musk announced a plan to take the publicly traded car company private, then changed his mind three weeks later. Tesla has been struggling to meet production targets of its Model 3 sedan, and Mr. Musk said he had sometimes slept at the factory.

He also enlisted his engineers to build a submarine-like escape pod to rescue 12 boys and their coach from a cave in Thailand. That proved unnecessary — the boys were able to swim out with the help of divers.

But when one of the divers, Vernon Unsworth, disparaged the effort, Mr. Musk suggested, without evidence, that Mr. Unsworth was a pedophile. On Monday, Mr. Unsworth announced that he was suing Mr. Musk for defamation.

By comparison, SpaceX has been an oasis of calm, launching satellites and spacecraft without incident for most of the year.

Mr. Maezawa, a billionaire fashion entrepreneur, may be best known in the United States for his purchase in 2017 of a 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat for $110 million. The artist’s sister, Lisane Basquiat, said in an interview at the time that “we were speechless” about the price he paid.

Mr. Maezawa said he’d like to bring five to eight artists aboard the trip, part of a project he called Dear Moon.

This is actually the second time that SpaceX has announced that it will fly tourists to the moon and back.

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SOURCE: New York Times, Kenneth Chang