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September 18, 2018

Who is Yusaku Maezawa, Elon Musk’s first space tourist?

By Priya Kantaria

Elon Musk’s space tourism company SpaceX has announced that Yusaku Maezawa will be its first private passenger to travel around the moon in 2023.

For close to a decade, SpaceX has been working on a rocket capable of transporting regular people back and forth from the moon, but who is the man who will get to experience it first?

Who is Yusaku Maezawa, SpaceX’s first space tourist?

Maezawa,42, is a Japanese billionaire and online fashion entrepreneur. Forbes lists him as 18th richest man in Japan with a personal wealth of $2.9bn.

He made his fortune in e-commerce, first founding Start Today, a company selling rare CDs and Record, in 1998, before moving into the clothing industry. Zozotown, launched by the mogul in 2004, is now Japan’s largest fashion retail website.

Maezawa was in the headlines last month after the platform distributed a free “Zozosuit” to customers which helped create a 3D scan of their body that could be used to make custom-sized clothes.

Maezawa was once a drummer in punk band, Switch Style. He is now better known for setting records at art auctions, including the $110.5m purchase of a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat in 2017.

Why Maezawa?

He says he plans to invite several artists along on the SpaceX flight. During the announcement at SpaceX’s California headquarters, Maezawa said, “In principle I would like to reach out to the artists I love.”

His website for the space project, dearMoon reads, “A painter, musician, film director, fashion designer. Some of Earth’s greatest talents will board a spacecraft and be inspired in a way they have never been before.”

Boeing challenge for Mars landing

Musk’s moon mission is far from certain. Initially the eccentric entrepreneur, who co-founded PayPal and Tesla, said that the project would launch in 2018.

So far, only 24 people have ever visited the moon and only 12 have landed on its surface. The last time humanity ventured beyond Earth’s orbit was during NASA’s Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Maezawa will not land on the moon however. The Big falcon Rocket is set to take Musk’s passenger, and possibly Musk himself, in a loop around the moon over the course of a single week.

While the mission is still some way off, Musk already has his sights set further. Speaking at the announcement, the company CEO accepted a challenge from Boeing, which has said that the first human mission to Mars will be aboard a Boeing spacecraft.

Competition from the aircraft manufacturer might be just what Musk needs to propel his futuristic project forward.

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