Elon Musk reveals the first passenger SpaceX will send around the moon

Enlarge Image Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa speaks about his moon mission through SpaceX.                  Video screenshot by CNET

The 42-year-old billionaire is the founder of Zozotown and is believed to have a net worth of £2.8 billion. 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.

Most famous outside Japan for his record-breaking $110 million purchase of an untitled 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, Maezawa said he would invite six to eight artists to join him on the lunar orbit mission.

"Finally, I can tell you that I choose to go to the Moon!" the Japanese entrepreneur proclaimed.

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". The mission isn't scheduled to launch until 2023.

Whether or not SpaceX will fly an uncrewed BFR on a lunar free return trajectory mission - flying the exact profile it will with Maezawa and his passengers - before Maezawa's mission has not yet been determined.

The Moon is about 385,000 km away from Earth and the last time an astronaut travelled there was in 1972 as part of the Apollo 17 mission.

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Elon Musk attempted to write the next chapter in his quest to open up space to the masses by announcing the first paying tourist that his company, SpaceX, would fly on a trip around the moon. The company has previously created rockets that can be landed and reused, and it is working on its Dragon capsule to eventually carry astronauts to the ISS. "But I wouldn't recommend doing that, because I think the new architecture, the BFR architecture, is the way to go". Today SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell was quoted as saying that the company had its "eyes on the prize" for an initial BFR flight to Mars in 2024, although she acknowledged that SpaceX's timelines often slip to the right.

A render of BFR, shown during SpaceX's press conference.

The BFR has never flown, but Mr Musk has released some technical details about it.

"This would be a long loop around the moon", stated Mr. Musk in regard to the private citizen flight of BFR. "And late Sunday, Musk further fueled the anticipation by tweeting out artist renderings of the massive launch vehicle that SpaceX is developing to fly into deep space, with a simple message: "#OccupyMars". "That's the intention of BFR, is to make people excited about the future", he said.

NASASpaceflight will publish an in-depth article on the new elements of BFR announced this evening in the coming days.

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