TOKYO • Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa yesterday launched a search for eight people to join him as the first private passengers on a trip around the Moon with tech billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX.
The rejigged project will "give more people from around the globe the chance to join this journey", Mr Maezawa said.
"If you see yourself as an artist, then you are an artist."
The first stage of the selection process runs to March 14, with applicants needing to pass medical checks and, eventually, an interview with Mr Maezawa.
The 45-year-old entrepreneur, who sold his online fashion business Zozo to SoftBank in 2019, is paying the entire cost of the voyage on SpaceX's next-generation reusable launch vehicle, dubbed the Starship.
Two recent Starship prototypes exploded during testing, underscoring the risks for Mr Maezawa and his fellow passengers, who must also contend with the strains of space travel in the first private journey beyond Earth's orbit.
"Elon Musk says there is no problem and I believe him," said Mr Maezawa.
SpaceX ferried four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in November last year on its Falcon 9 rocket.
Seeing the whole Earth and the far side of the Moon would be highlights of the trip, said Mr Maezawa, who had considered a trip to the ISS before choosing the more ambitious Moon voyage.
"This mission, we expect people will go further than any human has ever gone from planet Earth," Mr Musk had said, days after SpaceX completed its latest US$850 million (S$1.13 billion) fundraising, which has helped turn the businessman into one of the world's richest people.
Costs for the trip remain in line with the original contract with SpaceX, said Mr Maezawa, who has declined to say how much that is, but adding that it is more than his US$110 million purchase of a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting.