Japan billionaire seeks 'crew' for 'fun' moon trip

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is paying the entire cost of the voyage on SpaceX's next-generation reusable launch vehicle. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has kicked off a global contest to select eight crew members to join him on a private SpaceX flight around the moon in 2023, the first such mission conducted on a commercial basis.

"It will be 10 to 12 people in all, but I will be inviting 8 people to come along on the ride," the founder and former chief executive of online fashion retailer Zozo said in a video.

"I hope that together we can make it a fun trip," he said, adding that he is looking for "people from all kinds of backgrounds to join" the six-day journey around the moon.

Mr Maezawa said he would pick the eight based on how they would use the trip to "push the envelope" in their respective fields and also on their willingness to support other crew members.

Applicants will be screened from March 21 with final interviews and medical check-ups targeted for May.

He had originally planned to invite artists for the week-long voyage slated for 2023.

The rejigged project will "give more people from around the globe the chance to join this journey. If you see yourself as an artist, then you are an artist," Mr Maezawa said.

The entrepreneur is paying the entire cost of the voyage on SpaceX's next-generation reusable launch vehicle, dubbed the Starship.

Two recent prototypes have exploded during testing, underscoring the risks for Mr Maezawa, 45, and his fellow passengers, who must also contend with the strains of space travel in the first private journey beyond Earth's orbit.

Mr Maezawa is known for his art and supercar collections, and the cash giveaways that have made him Japan's most-followed Twitter account.

Last year he launched a short-lived documentary search for a new girlfriend to join him on the trip before pulling out citing "mixed feelings."

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