Thursday, 21 March, 2019

SpaceX to announce 1st private moon flight passenger

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Sandra Phillips | 18 September, 2018, 07:41

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced Monday night that entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa would be the first private person to fly solo around the moon aboard the company's Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) launch vehicle.

Maezawa, a 42-year-old from Japan, is a billionaire who founded Zozotown, an online retail shop.

Mr Musk shelved a similar project to send two customers into. Expected payload: one man who, according to this cryptic tweet from Musk himself, is not Elon Musk and may be Japanese.

SpaceX released this dramatic illustration of its BFR spacecraft with the moon.

Maezawa will invite six to eight artists of different professional and personal backgrounds - artists who represent the whole of humanity - to join him on the lunar flyby mission... with the only stipulation to their involvement being that they create works thereafter that "inspire the dreamer in all of us".

SpaceX previously announced plans to eventually use Falcon Heavy to launch paying space tourists on a trip around the moon, but Musk said in February he was inclined to reserve that mission for the BFR.

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Last year, Musk said the BFR's admittedly "ambitious" goal was to make a test flight to Mars in 2022, followed by a crewed flight to the Red Planet in 2024. He paid an unspecified amount of money for the privilege.

Yusaku Maezawa said his heart was already racing just thinking about the trip.

Astronauts last visited the moon during NASA's Apollo program.

Who will fly with the mystery passenger is among the many questions that Musk is likely to address during the announcement.

With this evening's announcement and more concrete details regarding BFR, SpaceX takes another important and public step in the company's ongoing drive to build and use the BFR rockets - in large part - to establish a permanent human colony on Mars.

But Musk threw a curve ball during a Falcon Heavy press conference earlier this year when he told reporters that, for the time being, SpaceX had no plans to certify the Falcon Heavy for human spaceflight. That design is likely to continue undergoing major shifts well beyond the commencement of integrated Grasshopper-style hop tests of BFR's spaceship upper stage (known as BFS), as flight-testing the rocket's major components will nearly invariably result in design changes, be it major or minor. The biggest clue in this regard is that the launch is set to take place on board the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), which is thought to be still several years away from being ready for liftoff. A 90-minute flight costs $250,000.

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