TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa launched an eight-person search on Wednesday to join him as the first private passengers on a trip around the moon with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
He had originally planned to invite artists for the week-long trip scheduled for 2023.
The rejigged project “will give more people from around the world the opportunity to join this journey. If you see yourself as an artist, then you are an artist, ”Maezawa said.
The first stage of the selection process runs until March 14, and applicants must pass medical checks and, finally, an interview with Maezawa.
The entrepreneur, who sold his online fashion business Zozo Inc to SoftBank in 2019, is paying the full cost of the trip on SpaceX’s next-generation reusable launch vehicle, dubbed the Starship.
“I thought there might be delays, but everything is on schedule,” Maezawa said in an interview.
Two recent Starship prototypes exploded during testing, underscoring the risks for Maezawa, 45, and his fellow travelers, who must also grapple with the stresses of space travel on the first private trip beyond the orbit of the earth.
“Elon Musk says there is no problem and I believe him,” Maezawa said. SpaceX flew four astronauts to the International Space Station in November on its Falcon 9 rocket.
Maezawa said he is not training, which he hopes will take a few months at most, but is monitoring his alcohol consumption and exercising while spending a few hours a week considering the mission.
“I’m just mentally preparing myself,” said the fashion guru, wearing a Dior t-shirt over a t-shirt depicting the iconic 1968 Earthrise photo.
Seeing all of Earth and the far side of the moon would be the highlight of the trip, said Maezawa, who had considered a trip to the ISS before choosing the more ambitious lunar trip.
“We hope that people will go further on this mission than any human being has ever gone from planet Earth,” Musk said days after SpaceX completed its latest $ 850 million fundraiser, which has helped turn the businessman into one of the richest people in the world.
The costs of the trip are still in line with the original contract with SpaceX, said Maezawa, who declined to say how much it is, but says it is more than his $ 110 million purchase of a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Both Musk and Maezawa have built a loyal following on social media, and the latter’s cash gifts have made it the most followed Twitter account in Japan.
Maezawa, who recently introduced SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son to the Clubhouse audio app, said he plans to feature mission readiness on his YouTube channel, which also features videos of him playing golf in Hawaii and competing in supercars.
Last year he released a short documentary in search of a new girlfriend to join him on the trip before retiring citing “mixed feelings.”
Reporting by Sam Nussey; Edited by Gerry Doyle