By Carlo Versano
The first civilian to see the moon up close will be Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire and art collector who will pay an untold fortune for a ride around the moon on SpaceX's BFR rocket. Elon Musk, founder and CEO of the private space company, announced Maezawa as the maiden passenger on a trip that is tentatively scheduled for 2023.
But the mission is not exactly green-lit, science writer Shannon Stirone said.
"They have to prove BFR can actually leave Earth in the first place," she said Tuesday in an interview on Cheddar.
Musk is known for his aggressive timelines ー at both SpaceX and Tesla ー and freely admitted during the livestreamed event Monday night that his process is fluid.
SpaceX, which Musk said put $2 billion to $10 billion into developing this project ー plans test flights around the moon for 2020. That is probably wishful thinking, Stirone said, though she thinks "eventually it will happen."
Stirone estimates the cost of the ticket for Maezawa's non-astronaut voyage (a major first in the field) would be "at least $80 million" and he likely put down "tens of millions" as a deposit. The company will pay the remaining balance.
For Maezawa, who founded the Japanese clothing company Zozo, it's like buying a plane ticket.
He is most famous for unmasking himself last year as the buyer of a 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, for which he paid $110 million.
Maezawa said that he hopes to bring artists along with him to describe the moon to those who don't have the means, or desire, to take the arduous five-day journey.
SpaceX's announcement arrives as Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin makes less splashy strides toward its goal of sub-orbital space tourism. The far less complicated trip with a relatively cheaper price of a couple hundred-grand would allow people to "skim the stratosphere" and feel weightless for a few minutes before coming home, Stirone said.
Musk's goal with the BFR is somewhat more tangled ー its ultimate function will be to ferry 100 passengers at a time to and from Mars.
For full interview click here.