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An actor, a rapper & a DJ walk into a rocketship — meet Japanese billionaire’s moon mission crew

Crew members, including Dev Joshi, were reportedly picked from over 1 million applicants after a call was put out on Twitter in 2021. SpaceX flight is tentatively scheduled for 2023.

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Bengaluru: Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has selected eight people from all over the world, including Indian actor Dev Joshi, to fly with him on the first all-private mission around the moon and back to earth.

The selected people are all artists and were reportedly picked from more than 1 million applicants after a call was put out on Twitter in 2021.

The flight is tentatively scheduled for 2023, and all members will fly on a SpaceX rocket for a week. The flight will not land on the moon, but will only go around it in a circumlunar path.

The crew include Maezawa’s favourite artists Japanese-American DJ Steve Aoki, whose father founded the Benihana restaurant chain, and South Korean rapper TOP (Choi Seung-hyun) who came to attention with the K-pop group Big Bang.

Also flying with them are Baalveer actor Dev Joshi, filmmaker Brendan Hall (the US), photographer Karim Iliya (the UK), photographic artist Rhiannon Adam (Ireland), former photographer and YouTuber Tim Dodd (the US), and multidisciplinary creative Yemi Dele Akinyemi (Czech Republic).

As part of the back-up crew are two female artists — snowboarder and Olympic gold medallist Kaitlyn Farrington (the US) and dancer Miyu (Japan).

Maezawa had purchased all available seats on the mission from SpaceX in 2018 and announced in a tweet in 2021 that he would pick eight crew members. He posted a tweet asking members of the public to apply to fly with him.

Also Read: Baalveer will go to moon, this time for real—Dev Joshi makes SpaceX crew

Mission profile

The rocket that will fly the crew is reportedly a Starship (formerly known as Falcon Heavy and also Big Falcon Rocket) that is yet to fly. The trip reportedly costs $5 billion, and Maezawa had already made a significant down payment to SpaceX in 2018.

There have been no details on the type of training the crew will undergo or the kind of art that actors like Joshi would create aboard the week-long flight. In his video, Maezawa said the two key criteria would be to have the artists help other people and society in some way with their flight, and also to help the other people flying with them.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said people will “go further than any human has ever gone from planet earth” in the video dated 3 March, 2021. “I’m highly confident that we will have reached orbit many times with Starship before 2023,” he added.

Starship is a fully-reusable, super-heavy launch vehicle and has not yet reached orbit in tests. After many name changes through iterations — Mars Colonial Transporter, Interplanetary Transport System, Big Falcon Rocket, and then Starship (second stage) and Super Heavy (booster stage) — the Starship system is yet to fly humans.

The upper stage of the rocket was named with the SN (serial number) prefixes for prototypes. Of the 25 prototypes currently built and tested, 8 exploded during tests, 13 were scrapped, and 3 were retired. Some flew up to 10 km in tests. SN24 and 25 are currently ready to fly.

There are planned orbital launches for Ships 20-24.

Starship will also fly another commercial spaceflight around the moon with an American entrepreneur and his wife, Dennis and Akiko Tito.

In 2021, US space agency NASA announced that Starship will fly the first-lander to the moon for its Artemis programme in 2025.

Who is Maezawa?

Maezawa is a fashion tycoon and founder of Zozotown, Japan’s largest online clothing retailer. He is also an art aficionado and founder of the Tokyo-based Contemporary Art Foundation in 2012.

In a 2018 event announcing his intentions to fly, he said: “What if Picasso had gone to the moon? Or Andy Warhol, or Michael Jackson, or John Lennon? What about Coco Chanel? These are all artists that I adore.”

He had flown to the International Space Station in December 2021 with his assistant Yozo Hirano, via a Soyuz craft, and spent 12 days in space as a civilian.

Maezawa has a flair for theatrics. In January 2019, he announced on Twitter that he would offer 100 million yen (about Rs 6 crore) to 100 randomly selected people who retweet the tweet and follow him. The tweet was retweeted more than 4 million times — the highest number of retweets for any tweet — and his followers grew by the same number.

He repeated the same tweet later that year in December, offering 1 billion yen to 1,000 random people who retweeted and followed him. This tweet became the second most retweeted tweet. The purported reason for giving away his money to followers was to see if money made them happier.

It is unclear if anyone received the money, and no follow up details were released about the experiment.

Maezawa is currently the most followed account from Japan on Twitter.

In January 2020, Maezawa announced on Twitter that he was looking for a new romantic female partner, saying “[WANTED]!!! Why not be the ‘first woman’ to travel to the moon? #MZ_looking_for_love”, beside an image of him and the moon, captioned ‘Come to the moon with me?’

The then-44-year-old billionaire and his new astronaut “girlfriend” aged 20 or above were to be filmed on the moon for a documentary to be aired on streaming service AbemaTV, before Maezawa cancelled the show after criticism.

There have been no female astronauts on or around the moon, so far.

Maezawa attracted global attention when he purchased works of art totalling over $300 million dollars in a 2016 auction.

A few years ago, his company Zozo released Zozosuit, a black bodysuit that was covered with white dots, to take custom measurements of a person’s body for better-fitted clothes. The dots were to help create a 3D model of the wearer’s body through Zozo’s iPhone app. However, customers complained the suit didn’t work as promised, with technical glitches and low sales.

The billionaire is estimated to have a net worth of $1.7 billion, and is currently the 20th richest person in Japan.

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

Also Read: India’s first human spaceflight Gaganyan in limbo, astronauts partially trained, ISRO silent

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