- On Monday, Elon Musk announced the first passenger for SpaceX’s first tourist flight around the moon: Japanese billionaire and art collector Yusaku Maezawa.
- Maezawa bought all the seats on the flight – which will use SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket launch system – in order to invite artists to accompany him on the journey.
- He wants these artists, who will come from a variety of fields but haven’t been selected yet, to create art that will inspire humanity after the trip.
- Maezawa is calling the project #dearMoon.
For inspiration, humanity has always looked up.
We’ve gazed at the moon and stars, and created poems, epics, paintings, and songs based on the sky.
Now, if the construction of SpaceX’s next rocket ship proceeds according to Elon Musk’s plans, a group of artists will get to experience an up-close view of the moon and see Earth from space on the first tourist flight around the moon.
And they will do it all for free, thanks to Japanese billionaire and art collector Yusaku Maezawa.
On Monday evening, Musk announced that Maezawa will be the first private passenger to travel to space on SpaceX’s BFR (short for Big Falcon Rocket or Big F—ing Rocket, as Musk sometimes calls it).
“Finally I can tell you that I choose to go to the moon!” Maezawa said during the announcement. But he didn’t buy just one seat on the BFR’s inaugural journey. He bought all of them.
His plan is to give a lucky group of creators the opportunity to gain a completely unique perspective on our world and use that experience to create art for the rest of us.
The BFR is still a long way from being fully built or tested, but the design calls for a 387-foot-tall launch system with two parts: a booster and a spaceship. If all goes as planned, Maezawa’s lunar mission will happen in 2023.
That will be the first time this rocket ship – or any in history – will transport civilians out 240,000 miles around the moon.
The view from space
Astronauts describe the feeling of peering at Earth from space as so transformative that the experience has earned its own name: the overview effect. It’s the moment when your perspective shifts as you recognise that all of human existence is tied to this one tiny blue marble – a small world hurtling through the vastness of space.
Here’s what Carl Sagan wrote about one of the most famous images of Earth from space – a photo by Voyager 1 taken in 1990:
That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilisation, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The photo Sagan is referring to (below) shows Earth as a tiny, almost invisible dot of light.
The path that Maezawa and the eight artists he’ll select will take around the moon is expected to be similar to the one Apollo 8 astronauts took in December 1968.
In a forthcoming documentary about Apollo 8 called Earthrise, mission leader Frank Borman is asked about what it felt like to be one of the first humans to see the Earth from that distance.
“What they should have sent was poets because I don’t think we captured, in its entirety, the grandeur of what we had seen,” Borman says in the documentary.
That’s what Maezawa seems to want to accomplish with his trip. In yesterday’s announcement, he said that he’s thought a lot about what masterpieces artists might create if they were given a chance to see that kind of view and have their own overview effect.
“What if Basquiat had gone to space and seen the moon up close or seen the Earth in full view?” Maezawa said during the announcement. “Just thinking about it now gets my heart rushing. But once I got started, I could not stop thinking about who else.”
“Many of you may be wondering why do I want to go to the moon? What do I want to do there? And most of all, why did I purchase the entire BFR?” Maezawa said at the announcement.
His answer was that he’s always loved the moon, but also wants to give art to the world – something he believes could contribute to world peace.
Maezawa was a skateboarder and musician before founding several companies, including the custom fashion company Zozo. The billionaire is now best known as an art collector; last year, he purchased Jean-Michel Basquiat’s stunning 1982 painting “Untitled” for $US110.5 million.
To foster the creation of artwork that might inspire humanity, Maezawa said he plans to invite six to eight artists on the moon mission with him. That group might include a film director, painter, dancer, novelist, musician, fashion designer, photographer, sculptor, and architect. Upon return they’d be asked to create something.
Musk said Maezawa’s willingness to invest so much money into the initiative and gift the experience of spaceflight to artists helped restore Musk’s own faith in humanity.
No one knows how much Maezawa paid for the seats, but it’s a significant sum.
“He’s paying a lot of money that would help with the ship and its booster,” Musk said on Monday. “He’s ultimately paying for the average citizen to travel to other planets.”
Maezawa is calling the project #dearMoon, and a dearMoon website with a video explains the initiative.
There’s still a lot that Maezawa and Musk said they couldn’t share yet about the project. The artists have not been chosen, and even the process of selecting them is a mystery.
But it sounded like Maezawa may have some names in mind already.
“If you should hear from me, please say yes and accept my invitation,” he said. “Please don’t say no!”
Read more about SpaceX’s recent announcement:
- Elon Musk just revealed who’s going to fly to the moon on SpaceX’s new rocket ship
- Meet Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese musician turned billionaire art collector who’s going to be the first person to travel to the moon with SpaceX
- Elon Musk just revealed the ‘final iteration’ of SpaceX’s biggest and most powerful rocket ship – take a look
- ‘Maybe we’ll both be on it’: Elon Musk said he’d consider flying around the moon in a giant SpaceX ship with a Japanese billionaire and a crew of artists