November 19, 2019 • Evelyn J. Arevalo
Source: Yusaku Maezawa
Yusaku Maezawa, Japanese entrepreneur, founder of Japan’s largest online clothing retailer named Zozotown, will be the first private customer to fly around the Moon on Starship -SpaceX's new massive rocket. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, introduced him at an event last year, Maezawa wants to take artists on his Starship voyage to turn it into an art project called dearMoon. The trip is planned for the year 2023. Maezawa said:
"Finally, I can tell you that I choose to go to the Moon! I choose to go to the moon with artists!"
DearMoon will be a space tour lasting about one week. During the tour, Starship won't land on the moon's surface, instead it will fly on a circumlunar trajectory (around the moon) travelling 238,900 miles away from Earth.
Photo: The distance between Earth and the Moon. Captured by NASA’s OSIRIS-REX spacecraft.
Circumlunar journey plan. Source: dearMoon
"I would like to invite six to eight artists from around the world to join me on this mission to the Moon. These artists will be asked to create something after they return to Earth, and these masterpieces will inspire the dreamer within all of us."
Maezawa hasn’t yet made public what artists will receive an invite but he would like them to represent a variety of art fields, such as painters, film directors, musicians, designers and more. He was inspired to create the dearMoon project when he found himself imagining what his favorite artists would have created if they had traveled to space, "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."
At a recent media interview, Maezawa indicated he would fly aboard Starship around Earth first, before SpaceX's circumlunar voyage in order to train for the mission. He even resigned at his company and sold a large portion of it to make time to train. He came to SpaceX with the idea to do this flight, they haven't made public how much he paid for it but the trip will be free for the artists who are invited. Musk has mentioned on several occasions he feels thankful Maezawa is funding Starship's development because ultimately he envisions a future where humanity lives on other planets. The payment Maezawa made for the dearMoon mission was significant enough that it will -"have a material effect on paying for cost and development of Starship,"Musk said, "He's paying a lot of money that would help with the ship and its booster. [...] He's ultimately paying for the average citizen to travel to other planets."
SpaceX has two construction sites for Starship development: one in Boca Chica, Texas, and a second in Cocoa, Florida. At the Texas launch site, SpaceX started to build their first prototype, called Starhopper. Which was a test vehicle used to perform crucial tests that proved SpaceX's new Raptor rocket engines work.
Starhopper 150m flight test. Source: SpaceX
In April and July, it performed "hop" tests, which are launches at relatively low altitudes. It made its last hop launch above Boca Chica in August.
That final hop test took Starhopper about 150 meters high and it successfully landed on a nearby concrete pad. A significant achievement for the company who is now pushing to complete two larger Starship prototypes, called Mk 1 and Mk 2 in Texas and Florida.
Boca Chica Texas Starship Mk1. Source: Elon Musk
Starship Mk1 is scheduled to perform a 20 kilometer flight above Boca Chica Beach, Texas soon. Currently, the craft is going through pre-flight tests before the launch. While Starship Mk2 in Florida is still under construction. SpaceX ultimate goal with Starship is to replace all their current spacecraft by transforming it into a fully reusable craft capable of transporting 100 passengers plus tons of cargo to the Moon then Mars.
Yesterday, Maezawa shared a photograph with Elon Musk, stating that the development SpaceX's moon rocket Starship is going smoothly and that he plans to invite a passenger for the dearMoon mission soon!
The photograph features Starhopper's thruster pod, with a plaque that reads about the important role this thruster pod had during the first phase of Starship's development.
Source: Yusaku Maezawa
If Starship's development continues to go smoothly, we could see an orbital flight test of a Starship prototype as soon as next year, in preparation for Maezawa's dearMoon mission.
Good luck to SpaceX. Adventure awaits!