By Jackie Wattles, CNN
Japanese fashion mogul Yusaku Maezawa has picked eight passengers that he said will join him on a trip around the moon, powered by SpaceX’s yet-to-be-flown Starship spacecraft. The group includes American DJ Steve Aoki and popular space YouTuber Tim Dodd, better known as the Everyday Astronaut.
The mission, called Dear Moon, was first announced in 2018. Maezawa initially aimed to take a group of artists with him on a six-day trip around the moon but later announced he had expanded his definition of an “artist.” Instead, he said he would be open to people from all walks of life as long as they viewed themselves as artists, Maezawa said in a video announcement last year.
Joining Maezawa, Aoki and Dodd will be Czech multidisciplinary artist Yemi A.D., Irish photographer Rhiannon Adam, photographer Karim Iliya, Indian actor Dev Joshi, documentary filmmaker Brendan Hall and South Korean rapper Choi Seung Hyun, who goes by the stage name T.O.P.
“I can’t miss this opportunity,” Aoki said in a video announcement. “My soul is, is begging for this.”
A backup crew of US Olympic snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington and Japanese dancer Miyu was also selected.
Maezawa is paying an undisclosed sum for the trip, and he has said he will take his passengers free of charge.
There were two main criteria for selecting Maezawa’s fellow passengers, the mission’s website noted: Applicants should be seeking to “push the envelope” in their field of work by going to space “to help other people and greater society in some way,” and they should be willing to support their fellow crew members during the journey.
At one point last year, Maezawa had also said he would also use a dating show to search for a “life partner” that would join him on the journey. But he later canceled those plans, saying he had “mixed feelings” about participating in the endeavor.
Since the Dear Moon mission was first announced, Maezawa made his first journey to space, taking a self-funded, 12-day journey to the International Space Station. That December 2021 trip made use of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
Starship is a work in progress
SpaceX’s massive Starship rocket is still in development at the company’s testing facilities in South Texas. A few early prototypes have conducted brief “hop tests,” some of which have flown a few miles above Earth, but the company has not yet tested Super Heavy, a gargantuan, 230-foot (69-meter) rocket booster that will be needed to propel the 164-foot (50-meter) Starship spacecraft into Earth’s orbit or beyond. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said for months that it’ll be prepared to conduct the test soon, though the company is still waiting on a launch license from federal regulators.
Musk had previously said he expects Starship will be conducting regular flights by 2023, but it’s not clear if SpaceX will hit that deadline. The aerospace industry is notorious for projects that take far longer — and tally much higher expenses — than first anticipated.
If early test flights of Starship are successful and the Dear Moon mission gets off the ground, Maezawa’s crew could be the first group of private citizens to venture beyond low-Earth orbit.
The six-day mission is expected to spend three days reaching its destination and take a slingshot trip around the moon before returning to Earth.
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