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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

'Crazy' billionaire speaks for the first time of his plans for an artistic mission to the Moon

Japanese fashion tycoon and art collector says it is the most expensive thing he has ever done

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa speaks after SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk announced him as the person scheduled to be the first private passenger on a trip around the moon. AP Photo/Chris Carlson
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa speaks after SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk announced him as the person scheduled to be the first private passenger on a trip around the moon. AP Photo/Chris Carlson

Japanese fashion billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has admitted he may be “doing something crazy” by travelling to the Moon as the world’s first lunar tourist.

The 42-year-old tycoon was revealed last month to have signed up to Elon Musk’s privately funded Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), unveiled in 2016.

The entrepreneur and art collector said he had initially planned his first foyer into space with the Russian Soyuz programme, currently responsible for all human spaceflights to the International Space Station (ISS).

But two years ago he switched to join Mr Musk’s SpaceX project, whose lofty ambitions include the development of advanced spacecraft to enable humans to become “a multi-planet species”.

“Ever since I was a kid I have loved the Moon very much,” Mr Maezawa told the BBC technology show Click.

“No one has ever seen the other side of the Moon so I’m looking forward to that.”

The BFR is a privately funded, fully reusable heavy-lift launch vehicle which Mr Musk hopes will revolutionise his SpaceX programme.

Construction of the first prototype was announced earlier this year and suborbital test flights could begin as early as 2019.

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Mr Maezawa, who was once a drummer in a punk band, said he initially believed he would be the only passenger on board the BFR, but that Mr Musk had since raised the idea of there being more.

He said his recent acquisition of a $110 million work of art by American Jean-Michel Basquiat was significant, but that even by this benchmark the cost of the SpaceX trip was “huge”.

“SpaceX offered the possibility of 10 (passengers) which made me think of taking artists,” he said.

“It’s not decided yet but I’d like to choose people who can skillfully express the experience of seeing the round Earth and the Moon up close.

“It’s the most expensive thing I’ve ever paid for. It is more important that it inspires others than gaining something for myself.

“Someone has to do something crazy first to change the views and the future I am very honoured to do that.

“My dream is world peace. If I see the Earth as a whole I can only imagine that my dream will get stronger.

“I’m also excited to see the Earth during lunar orbit, a view called ‘Earth-rise’.”

In February last year, SpaceX announced that two would-be space tourists had put down “significant deposits” for a mission which would see them fly around the Moon and back again.

The company, which was founded by Mr Musk in 2002, currently uses unmanned vehicles to transport cargo to ISS but hopes to fly its first manned capsule to the station next April.

Mr Maezawa said: “At this point safety cannot be guaranteed and SpaceX have not yet successfully conducted human space flight. Until the success of that mission there will continue to be concerns.”

He added: “I’ve become good friends with Elon. He is crazy like me.”