Japanese billionaire named as SpaceX's first moon traveler

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Maezawa is chief executive of Japan's largest online fashion mall, and is the 18th richest person in Japan with a fortune of $3 billion, according to the business magazine Forbes.

SpaceX is still working hard at getting its Big Falcon Rocket ready for its first test launches, and the company will need to put its launch systems through their paces well in advance of taking passengers anywhere. The craft will "take off, have booster separation, go to parking orbit, do a trans-Lunar injection, fly around the Moon and then come back and land", he said.

Before he introduced Maezawa, Musk outlined his company's space travel goals, warning of a possible event that could "end civilization", adding, "We should take action and become a multi-planet civilization as soon as possible". SpaceX CEO Elon Musk later tweeted that it would be "8 (brave) artists & cultural figures".

The private space firm announced on Twitter that it would reveal who is flying "and why" on Monday, 17 September, describing the venture as "an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of travelling to space".

It's not clear whether the BFR tourism mission has any link to an announcement SpaceX made in February 2017.

Founded by billionaire Elon Musk and conceived as a company with long-term ambitions such as bringing humans to Mars, SpaceX will ferry four NASA astronauts to space in 2019 with its Crew Dragon or Dragon 2 spacecraft.

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Last year, he said two paying tourists would circle the Moon in 2018, but those plans that did not materialize.

One of those pieces was by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, whom Maezawa discussed during the press conference: Basquiat died in 1988, but what could he have created had he seen Earth from space? The price for a SpaceX lunar mission is likely hefty, though Musk pointed out, "It's going to be free for the artists". Astronauts last visited the moon during NASA's Apollo program. Twelve walked on the lunar surface. The spacecraft is meant to buzz around the moon without landing.

BFR will inevitably borrow heavily from almost a decade of designing, building, testing, launching, and upgrading 60+ Falcon 9 and Heavy rockets, all successes and failures included.

Musk says the BFR will act more like a sky diver than an airplane. The company has been eyeing space tourism, previously stating that it had received sizable deposits from a couple of unnamed individuals keen on traveling into space.

It'll have forward actuated fins, and rear actuated fins, and it'll be powered by SpaceX's Raptor thrust engine.