Astronauts are mostly cut from the same cloth: scientists or military pilots who the US government deemed to have the proverbial “right stuff.”
But Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has different ideas about who the next moon travelers should be.
“What I want to do is show the people of Earth just how beautiful our planet is by taking artists up there, so that they can convey that beauty to the world,” he told CNN in an exclusive interview. His quotes have been translated from Japanese.
Ten months ago, Maesawa garnered worldwide attention by announcing he would spend untold amounts of money to reserve a flight aboard a gargantuan launch vehicle still under development by SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket company. (The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, and he declined to comment on them to CNN.)
Maesawa is broadly known in Asia as a high-rolling art collector and the entrepreneur behind Zozotown, the online fashion site. His decidedly more outlandish purchase of a moon rocket appeared to come out of left field. But Maezawa said he’s been enamored with spaceflight since he witnessed Halley’s Comet streak by Earth when he was an elementary school kid in the 1980s.
“I’ve loved space and heavenly bodies ever since,” he said. “But I never thought that I’d actually be able to go to space…When I heard that SpaceX [wanted] to send people to the moon, I contacted them immediately.”
The mission, which SpaceX tentatively scheduled for as soon as 2023, would take Maezawa on a slingshot trip around the moon. Through six decades of human space travel access to orbit has, with a few exceptions, been relegated to highly trained astronauts. But Maezawa declared he would find six to eight artists to join him – people, he said, who could communicate their experiences to the masses in new ways. He calls the project “Dear Moon.”
“I think everyone has seen videos of space before, and I think everyone has seen photos and videos of our beautiful round earth — but, in a sense, I don’t think anyone has really heard the voices of those who have been there,” he said. “Everyone who has been there so far, has been an astronaut.”
Maezawa said he initially thought he wanted to only take “traditional” artists such as painters, writers, musicians and photographers. But he said his ideas have evolved.
“There are times when I think that maybe everyone on Earth is actually an artist. We all live life everyday through some form of expression,” Maezawa mused. So, he may also search for business owners, engineers or athletes.
Maezawa said he has spoken about the trip casually with “First Man” director Damien Chazelle and lead actor Ryan Gosling. (Gosling, he said, turned him down outright. “He said he was scared,” Maezawa said.)
There are, of course, no guarantees Maezawa’s “Dear Moon” mission will ever take flight. SpaceX has notched dozens of successful uncrewed launches, but the giant rocket the company is building for deep-space missions, called Starship, is still in the very early stages of development and is expected to be hugely expensive. SpaceX has even acknowledged such risky undertakings have bankrupted other companies.
Maesawa is aware some people think his idea is crazy or that it will never happen, but he brushes off the detractors: “I don’t think anything innovative is going to come from doing things that everybody understands and approves of.”