SpaceX: Japanese billionaire first tourist to fly to moon

Yusaku Maezawa chief executive of Start Today Co. is shown speaking at a press conference in Tokyo

"The first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard BFR (Big Falcon Rocket) is fashion innovator and globally recognized art curator Yusaku Maezawa", SpaceX tweeted on Monday.

The first space tourist was Dennis Tito, an American businessman who in 2001 paid some $20 million to fly on a Russian spaceship to the International Space Station.

According to Forbes, Maezawa is the 18th richest man in Japan with a fortune of $2.9 billion.

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Musk called Maezawa a "very courageous person" to take the flight to the moon.

The Japanese billionaire is also known as a contemporary art collector and curator with a large collection at his Contemporary Art Foundation in Tokyo, which features works of various renowned painters like Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

At Tuesday's announcement, the 42-year-old specified he would like to invite artists from around the world to join his mission to the Moon, adding that "they will be asked to create something after they return to Earth".

So he's inviting up to eight other people - including artists, designers and architects to join him, in what would be a historic moment.

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The big reveal on who it is - and when the flight to the moon will be - will be announced Monday at the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. "I don't know", Musk said. It will travel along a "free return trajectory" which will set the rocket on a course back to Earth after it has circled around the moon. "As far as me going, I'm not sure".

That said, the tech tycoon, echoed by Musk, said he could board the BFR as early as 2023.

Astronauts last visited the moon during NASA's Apollo programme in the 1960's. The moon trip would last four to five days, he said.

Musk's ultimate goal is to colonize Mars.

Maezawa's trip to the moon will be made on board a BFR, which is now still in development. Company representatives declined to offer additional details Friday.

Virgin's trip will cost about $250,000.

Short sightseeing trips to space aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket are likely to cost around $200,000 to $300,000, at least to start.

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