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Japanese billionaire flies eight members of the general public on the SpaceX moon flight

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa speaks at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa announced Tuesday that he will be selecting eight members of the public for his trip around the moon, which is slated to fly on the SpaceX Starship rocket in 2023.

"I invite you to join me on this mission," Maezawa said in a video.

Maezawa, who announced the mission in September 2018 with SpaceX founder Elon Musk, said the plan evolved from flying artists on a trip into lunar orbit.

His project, dubbed DearMoon, will now fly "10 to 12 people total," with eight of the crew members coming from members of the public Maezawa chooses to select.

The billionaire says he will "pay for the entire trip" so that those who join him can fly for free. Maezawa made his fortune starting the fashion retailer Zozotown, which he stepped from in 2019 after selling a majority stake in SoftBank.

It will take the DearMoon mission three days to fly to the moon, "drag behind it", and then spend three days returning, he said.

The DearMoon website states that "Pre-Registration" is open until March 14th. The pre-registration request requests the name, country, email address and a profile picture. A "first screening" begins on March 21st with a "final interview and medical examination" at the end of May.

There are two "key criteria" for any person applying to fly Maezawa: First, that a potential passenger can pursue "any activity" they empathize with "by going into space".

"If you go into space, could you do something that is even better and bigger?" Asked Maezawa.

Second, the eight aspiring astronauts "must be willing and able to assist other crew members who share similar endeavors," he said.

The Starship prototype SN9 starts at the company's development facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

SpaceX

It's been nearly two and a half years since Maezawa made its original DearMoon announcement, and the project has hit its 2023 goal for the launch of the mission.

In the meantime, SpaceX has continued to develop Starship. The rocket is a next-generation vehicle that is key to Musk's dreams of space exploration.

Musk aims to make Starship fully reusable – not just the booster that represents the bottom of the rocket – by landing and restarting in a similar fashion to an airliner.

SpaceX has not yet reached orbit with a Starship rocket, but is quickly building and testing prototypes at its facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The company has successfully launched several Starship prototypes and safely landed them after short flights at an altitude of approximately 500 feet.

Despite several development milestones, the two most recent high-altitude flights exploded on impact when attempting to land.

SpaceX has not yet announced how much it has spent on the Starship program to date, but Musk previously estimated that the company is expected to cost about $ 5 billion to complete.

In particular, SpaceX's valuation has soared since Maezawa's original announcement from about $ 25 billion at that time to about $ 74 billion last month.

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