SpaceX signs up Japanese billionaire for circumlunar BFR flight

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

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

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has announced that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, founder of Japan's largest online clothing retailer site Zozotown, will the company's first private customer to be sent to the moon. The company will livestream the big reveal at 9 p.m. EDT. You can also watch the stream in this story. And earlier this month, a video of Musk smoking marijuana and drinking whiskey on a popular podcast circulated on social media.

On Thursday, Musk tweeted a picture of a Japanese flag.

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

The current record was set on 15 April 1970 by the three-person crew of Apollo 13, who made it 400,171 km (248,655 mi) from Earth as their crippled craft swung around the dark side of the moon. Two years later would mark the last time NASA astronauts would visit the lunar surface.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced Monday night that entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa would be the first private person to fly aboard its Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) launch vehicle. Whoever it is, it's probably safe to assume that they are sufficiently wealthy to spend more money than we'll see in a lifetime on a (literally) out-of-this-world moon-shot vacation.

The rocket factory continues to hum along, so much so that during a recent media event to introduce the NASA astronauts assigned to fly on SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft, there was a constant din of the factory that went on uninterrupted.

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The as-of-yet-unnamed patron will be paying a huge price for the privilege of traveling around the Moon, and SpaceX has a huge job ahead of it to actually make the trip happen. 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 BFR's principal objective is to carry settlers and their stuff to Mars, 100 passengers at a time. According to Musk, the spaceship could shuttle about 100 passengers to the red planet.

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.

Shotwell estimated that the BFR will launch within a decade.

The BFR is an ambitious launch system that's being prototyped at the Port of Los Angeles.

Check back for updates during and after the announcement.

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