A Japanese internet entrepreneur is to be the first “space tourist” to fly round the moon.
Billionaire Yusaku Maezawa declared “I choose to go the the Moon” after being introduced by SpaceX’s chief executive Elon Musk at the company’s headquarters in California.
The ex punk band drummer made his money in online fashion with his company Zozo and is the 18th richest person in Japan with a fortune of $3bn, according to Forbes magazine.
Maezawa, 42, will take his trip round the moon in SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) spaceship and will be the first man to travel to earth’s only natural satellite since the US ended its Apollo missions in 1972.
It is not clear how much he has paid for the trip. Nor is it known when the flight will take place as BFR has yet to be built.
Mr Musk has said he wants the rocket to be ready for an unpiloted trip to Mars in 2022, with a crewed flight in 2024.
In announcing the moon flight Mr Musk has stolen a march on his rivals for space tourist dollars.
Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are also battling it out to launch private-sector spacecraft, but neither have so far announced plans as ambitious as SpaceX.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Bieber are among those who have so far signed up for 90 minute sub-orbital flights with Virgin Galactic at a cost of $250,000.
Short sightseeing trips to space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket are likely to cost around $200,000 to $300,000.
The first space tourist was American billionaire Dennis Tito who in 2001 paid to spend eight days in orbit as a crew member of ISS EP-1, a visiting mission to the International Space Station.