Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to become first space tourist

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Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa speaks after SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk announced him as the person who would be the first private passenger on a trip around the moon.

However, Musk did say that Maezawa brought the idea to him and that the Japanese billionaire's money will help fund development of Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR, which the company plans to use for the lunar flight - and eventually, for a flight to Mars. On coming back to the Earth, these artists will be expected to create masterpieces inspired by the Moon which in turn would "inspire the dreamer within all of us".

Maezawa declined to say how much he's paying for the flight, but Musk said it'll be free for the artists.

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"Overall, I think it's a little ridiculous". His private collection also includes works by Picasso, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons. In an interview to Forbes a year ago, a passionate Maezawa said, "I'd like to emphasize in the construction (of the museum) that each work of art plays a leading role in the museum". He also praised Maezawa for his courage in undertaking the expedition in the first place, and warned that it won't happen if the technology isn't deemed safe.

We don't know for sure.

The BFR, or Big Falcon Rocket, is SpaceX's forthcoming spaceship system that consists of two parts: A massive rocket booster that promises to out-power any ever built, and a towering spacecraft that will vault out of the Earth's atmosphere.

The average distance from Earth to the moon is about 237,685 miles (382,500 kilometers).

A total of 24 NASA astronauts - all white men - voyaged to the Moon during the Apollo era of the 1960s and '70s.

Toward the end of the event, a reporter in the room asked Musk about his own plans to fly in space. The space agency aims to build a gateway in the vicinity of the moon, complete with staff, during the 2020s. The outpost would serve as a stepping-off point for the lunar surface, Mars and points beyond.

However, it now seems that just one passenger will be on board. He bought an entire spaceship, and he intends to people it with 6-8 artists from different countries and representing different styles of art.

He had set the previous auction high for Basquiat months earlier, bidding $57.3 million for an untitled painting at Christie's. A year later, he paid more than $110 million auction for another piece by the same artist. Musk has previously expressed a desire to fly in space, though not on the earliest, riskiest missions.

Musk revealed that Maezawa was one of the original customers, but that the Falcon Heavy would only be able to take 2 people around the Moon.

Maezawa - described by SpaceX as a "fashion innovator" and "globally recognized art curator" - will be the first human to embark on a lunar mission since 1972, when the last Apollo mission went down.

Russian and Chinese companies are also working on space tourism plans. The moon trip would last four to five days, he said.

The first would-be civilian passenger to the moon was already signalling his interest in outer space before the announcement.

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