SpaceX will take a Japanese billionaire on a trip around the Moon

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"So that is why I choose to go to the Moon with artists", said Yusaku Maezawa, founder of the Japanese retail website Zozotown, on Monday. However, Maezawa is not paying for a simple trip into orbit to hang out for a few days and then return to Earth. The SpaceX rocket was first announced in 2016, and is more powerful than the Saturn V Moon rocket which launched the Apollo missions. In 2017, SpaceX said two unnamed people had put down large deposits to reserve a spot on the private lunar flight. The trip will be free for the artists he invites along, Maezawa added.

In 2023, Maezawa hopes to pile six to eight artists inside SpaceX's giant new launch system called BFR, which stands for Big Falcon Rocket (or, as Musk has described it, Big F--ing rocket).

An unconventional entrepreneur, Maezawa, the chief executive of Start Today Co. that runs the shopping site, has said "I dislike competing with others".

Forbes ranks Maezawa as the 18th richest person in Japan. The artists have not yet been chosen, but part of the project will involve them creating work inspired by their lunar journey after they return to Earth. But it must have been quite a lot, because Elon Musk allowed the Japanese to ride him. Musk said, however, that the down payment alone was "significant". The rocket dubbed BFR has not been built so any flight presumably is at least several years away.

"I'm not sure if we will test a flight around the Moon or not, but we will probably try doing that before sending any people".

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Importantly, SpaceX didn't actually reveal who the passenger was. It's unclear if Maezawa was one of those people.

On September 13, SpaceX revealed that it had signed a private passenger to fly around the moon on its Big Falcon Rocket, though it wouldn't reveal who that passenger was until September 17.

SpaceX has had a string of successful rocket launches, but that has been overshadowed by the struggles of Musk's Tesla electric auto company to deliver and his behavior.

During Monday night's announcement, Musk said the whole goal of SpaceX is to "help advance rocket technology to the point where we could potentially become a multi-planet species", and to "extend life beyond Earth and do so as quickly as we can".