National / Science & Health

Elon Musk’s SpaceX names Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa as first passenger for moon voyage

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

In July, Yusaku Maezawa, the founder of Japan’s major online fashion mall Zozotown, was donning chic suits designed by his firm’s private brand to give big presentations about global business strategies.

But while the earthly bounds of his firm’s success have yet to become clear, we now know that in 2023 the billionaire entrepreneur is scheduled to leave the planet altogether — dressed in a very different suit (albeit probably not one designed by Zozo).

Elon Musk’s SpaceX said Tuesday that Maezawa, CEO of Chiba-based Start Today Co., will be one of the first people to embark on an adventure to the moon aboard its spacecraft, and that he will also be inviting artists as his guests.

“Finally, I can tell you that I choose to go to the moon,” Maezawa, 42, said at an event Monday evening at the headquarters of Musk’s space technology company in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne.

Maezawa will be the first lunar traveler since the last U.S. Apollo mission in 1972.

While Maezawa did not reveal the cost of the SpaceX voyage, he said that he had already paid a deposit.

Musk said at the event that the amount was large enough to “have a material effect” on the program, and that it will assist the development of the ship and ultimately help normal people travel to other planets.

Musk has estimated that the development of the Big Falcon Rocket system and the spacecraft would cost about $5 billion.

Musk praised Maezawa’s decision to travel to the moon, spelling out the safety risks.

“He is a very brave person to do this,” Musk said. “I hope this is really seen as a positive thing.

“It’s dangerous, to be clear … This is not, you know, (a) walk in a park here. When you’re pushing the frontier, it’s not a sure thing; it’s not like just taking air flight somewhere. There’s some chances something could go wrong and I’ll do anything to minimize (the risks).”

Musk said that the Big Falcon Rocket has room for a hundred but will use the space to store extra fuel and oxygen to ensure the travelers have various options for recovery if something goes wrong.

“We’d better get this flight right,” Musk added.

Maezawa won’t travel alone — he wants artists to keep him company.

“In 2023, as the host, I’d like to invite six to eight artists from around the world on this mission,” Maezawa told reporters, adding that he wants to reach out to “top artists” including painters, sculptors, photographers, fashion designers, musicians and film directors. The crew will spend a week in space.

Maezawa is going to cover the travel expenses of all the guests, Musk said.

Maezawa explained that he didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see the moon up close.

“Ever since I was a kid I have loved the moon, and staring at the moon filled my imagination,” he said. The tycoon said his trip will be an attempt to contribute to world peace, in the belief that art has a power to promote this.

“I love art and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what different artists getting together can bring to life,” Maezawa said of his expectations regarding the trip.

Maezawa’s guests will be asked to create artworks reflecting their experience after returning to the Earth, Maezawa said.

He believes the artworks will become a legacy for the entire human race.

Maezawa has been known for his lavish spending, especially on art. He was ranked by Forbes as the 18th richest man in Japan this year, and owns works by famed artists such as Picasso, Giacometti and Calder.

Last spring, he bought a 1982 painting of a skull by Jean-Michel Basquiat for a record-breaking $110.5 million.