Japan’s Yusaku Maezawa will be SpaceX’s first tourist to moon

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New Delhi | Updated: September 23, 2018 1:19:28 AM

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will hitch the first SpaceX ride around the moon in 2023. He plans to invite as many as eight artists to join him.

Space vacation

Space tourism is the buzzword. And media has been awash with news of Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa who will hitch the first SpaceX ride around the moon. He plans to invite as many as eight artists to join him, with even SpaceX founder Elon Musk possibly signing up for the space flight. Maezawa will fly on Space Exploration Technologies Corporation’s BFR rocket in 2023. He will be the first private passenger to make the journey that only two dozen astronauts have been on during the Apollo era that ended 46 years ago.

“SpaceX has signed the world’s first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle—an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of travelling to space,” SpaceX representatives announced on Twitter last week. And the name was announced a few days later. The company is going with the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), based on the name of the existing Falcon rockets in the SpaceX fleet.

The BFR was originally envisioned as the primary transport vehicle for destination Mars. With a first-stage booster that’s roughly 200-feet-tall, 30-feet-across and with dozens of Raptor engines beneath it, the BFR could send 150 tonnes into the earth’s orbit and thrust its partner spaceships (capable of carrying 100 people) towards Mars. Reaching the moon won’t be a tough task for such a large spaceship.

Till date, SpaceX has launched more than 60 missions to deliver cargo or satellites into orbit in the last eight years, but none of them had humans onboard. The tourism announcement comes as the company is racing to meet a tight deadline to start flying astronauts to and from the International Space Station aboard its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft.

So, like Maezawa, if you are tired of traditional vacations, booking a trip around the moon could be an option that can be checked out. Though there are relatively few who would ever be able to afford such a journey, the trip could be worth every penny.

With SpaceX, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are also battling it out to launch private-sector spacecraft. Their ventures plan to conduct short suborbital trips during which passengers can briefly experience weightlessness and an expansive view of earth. The SpaceX passenger will join a growing list of celebrities and the ultra-rich who have secured seats on flights offered on the under-development vessels. Those who have signed up to fly on Virgin Galactic sub-orbital missions include actor Leonardo Dicaprio and pop star Justin Bieber. A 90-minute flight costs $2,50,000.

But lunar vacation isn’t going to become a reality anytime soon for most earthlings. Reusable rockets, like the ones that SpaceX has championed, do reduce the overall cost of spaceflight, but from hundreds of millions of dollars per launch to tens of millions of dollars per launch. Though it may be less expensive for a space agency like Nasa, it’s certainly not in the vacation budget of a majority.

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