Japanese billionaire to fly eight members of the public on SpaceX moon flight

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Japanese billionaire entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa speaks at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. 

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa announced on Tuesday that he will choose eight members of the public to join him on his trip around the moon, scheduled to fly on SpaceX’s Starship rocket in 2023.

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“I’m inviting you to join me on this mission,” Maezawa said in a video.

Maezawa, who announced the mission in September 2018 alongside SpaceX founder Elon Musk, said that the plan has evolved from flying artists on a trip to lunar orbit.

His project, called dearMoon, will now fly “10 to 12 people in all,” with eight of the crew coming from members of the public who Maezawa plans to pick.

The billionaire says he “will pay for the entire journey,” so those who join him will fly for free. The dearMoon mission will take three days to fly to the moon, “loop behind it,” and then spend three days returning, he said.

The dearMoon website says “pre-registration” is open until March 14. The pre-registration application requests one’s name, country, email address, and a profile picture. An “initial screening” process begins March 21, with a “final interview and medical checkup” in late May.

There are two “key criteria” for any person who applies to fly with Maezawa: First, that a prospective passenger can advance “whatever activity” they are into “by going to space.”

“By going to space could you do something that’s even better, even bigger?” Maezawa asked.

Second, the eight aspiring astronauts must “be willing and able to support other crew members who share similar aspirations,” he said.

Starship prototype SN9 launches from the company’s development facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

SpaceX

It’s been nearly two and a half years since Maezawa made his original dearMoon announcement and the project has stuck to its 2023 goal for the mission’s launch.

In the meantime, SpaceX has continued to work on developing Starship. The rocket represents a next-generation vehicle that is key to Musk’s dreams of space exploration.

Musk aims for Starship to be fully reusable – not just the booster, which is the bottom portion of the rocket – by landing and relaunching in a way more similar to a commercial airliner.

SpaceX has yet to reach orbit with a Starship rocket, but it is rapidly building and testing prototypes at its facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The company has successfully launched multiple Starship prototypes, landing them safely after short flights to about 500 feet in altitude. 

Its two most recent high-altitude flights, despite passing multiple development milestones, exploded on impact during attempted landings. 

SpaceX has not disclosed how much its has spent on the Starship program to date, but Musk previously estimated that he expects it will cost the company about $5 billion to complete.

Notably, SpaceX’s valuation has soared since Maezawa’s original announcement, from about $25 billion at the time to about $74 billion this past month.

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