SpaceX signs up Japanese billionaire for circumlunar BFR flight

Enlarge Image Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa speaks about his moon mission through SpaceX.                  Video screenshot by CNET

Enlarge Image Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa speaks about his moon mission through SpaceX. Video screenshot by CNET

SpaceX says it's signed the first private passenger to fly around the Moon in one of its rockets, and will reveal the mystery passenger's name at 6 p.m. (AP) The Japanese billionaire will fly to the moon aboard a new rocket called the BFR, which is still in development.

Our correspondent, Mary MacCarthy, joins us from Los Angeles.

"I'd like to introduce the first paying customer", Musk said before bringing out Maezawa at a company event, which was livestreamed.

After the announcement was made that at-the-time-mystery-passenger Maezawa would be revealed on the 17th, Elon Musk tweeted out a cryptic tweet with a single Japanese flag emoji.

The BFR is SpaceX's next generation spacecraft and launch vehicle system, set to be used along with the company's current suite of hardware like the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.

The diminutive Maezawa, who as a young man struggled to find clothes that fit, hopes to revolutionize the fashion industry through his Zozosuit, which once donned allows users to upload their body measurements and order a growing number of made-to-measure items.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, who has booked SpaceX's first private flight around the moon on a Big Falcon Rocket, meet the press during the mission's unveiling at the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, California on September 17, 2018.

"I could not pass up this opportunity to see the moon up close", Maezawa said.

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Maezawa, who founded online retailers Start Today and Zozotown and is one of Japan's richest citizens, purchased all passenger seats on the flight.

The billionaire said he wanted his guests to be inspired to create once they returned to Earth.

Musk explained that the BFR will pretty much only be breaking upon reentry, with the actuated fins or flaps helping it slow down along the way.

He said during a press conference that he planned to take six to eight artists with him on the mission.

Prior to Monday's announcement, Musk last publicly described the BFR and showed renderings of the system at the 2017 International Aeronautical Congress.

SpaceX/TwitterSpaceX's rendering of a Big Falcon Rocket spaceship carrying a passenger around the moon. "In order to minimize the development risk and cost, we chose to "commonize" the engine between the booster and ship", Musk said, adding that Raptor engines that are optimized for vacuum conditions could be added back in later. SpaceX is now working on a prototype in a temporary facility located at the port of Los Angeles.

Elon Musk attempted to write the next chapter in his quest to open up space to the masses by announcing the first paying tourist that his company, SpaceX, would fly on a trip around the moon. Aerospace experts who follow Musk and SpaceX's activities suggest there could be more iterations before the company's first lunar voyage lifts off the launch pad.

SpaceX's Falcon and Dragon rocket programs both already deliver payloads into Earth's orbit. He had said that the trip would happen this year.

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