18/09/2018 12:00 PM AEST | Updated 25/09/2018 3:48 AM AEST

Japanese Billionaire Will Fly To The Moon With SpaceX, Elon Musk Says

Yusaka Maezawa has purchased every available seat aboard Musk’s first rocket that will travel to the moon. He plans to take artists with him.

SpaceX, Elon Musk’s ambitious rocket endeavor, said Monday it had signed a Japanese billionaire as its first paying private citizen to travel to the moon.

Yusaku Maezawa has purchased every available seat aboard Musk’s first BFR rocket that will travel to the moon as early as 2023. Maezawa is worth an estimated $2.9 billion, according to Forbes, and founded Japan’s largest online fashion retailer.

“Why do I want to go to the moon? What do I want to do there? For me this project is very meaningful,” Maezawa said at a news conference Monday. “I thought long and hard about how it would be very valuable to become the first private passenger to go to the moon. At the same time, I thought how I could give to the world and how this could contribute to world peace. This is my lifelong dream.”

Maezawa, a prolific collector of modern art, said he planned to bring six to eight artists with him aboard the BFR, which stands for Big Falcon Rocket. He said he would be soliciting requests from the world’s leading creative people to travel with him on the endeavor, which he is calling #dearMoon.

It’s unclear how much Maezawa paid for the seats.

Musk released the proposed trajectory of the first lunar SpaceX flight with a paying customer, which could take place as early as 2023.

Musk himself has had a rocky year. The entrepreneur drew widespread condemnation after baselessly calling a British diver involved in the rescue of a trapped Thai soccer team a “pedo guy” in July. He apologized, but later increased the attack, labeling the man a “child rapist” without any evidence. The rescuer sued Musk on Monday in U.S. District Court in California for defamation.

An off-the-cuff tweet also left investors reeling after Musk said he planned to take Tesla, his electric car company, private.

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell also went on the defensive earlier this month, defending her boss as a “brilliant man.” She said Musk’s recent behavior would have “no impact at all” on investors and that there was “no chance” the antics would influence future contracts.

Only 24 people have been to the moon in human history, the last venturing there with NASA’s Apollo program in 1972. American Eugene Cernan was the last man on the moon, as part of the Apollo 17 mission.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled the first name of Yusaku Maezawa. 

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