Yusaku Maezawa, the billionaire Japanese fashion CEO who paid big bucks to Elon Musk’s SpaceX for the first seats on its Starship spacecraft for a trip round the Moon in 2023, recently teased a big announcement regarding the journey. Mystery solved: Maezawa proclaimed on Tuesday he is offering anyone interested a shot at joining his crew.
The mission, known as dearMoon, will involve 10-12 crew members, with eight slots available for the general public to apply for via the mission’s website. Maezawa appears to be aiming for a swift timeline: Pre-registration is scheduled to be due by March 14, 2020, with initial screenings being conducted by March 21. The website claims that the more successful applicants will receive final interviews and medical checkups by the end of May 2021. Between then and the launch date will be focused on mission training.
The only two qualifications required of the applicants is that they “push the envelope” toward improving society and that they will support other crew members who do the same. The remaining crew members will hopefully consist of individuals qualified in some kind of scientific or engineering discipline related to the operation of a spacecraft.
— Yusaku Maezawa (MZ) (@yousuckMZ) March 2, 2021
The dearMoon mission is intended to be dramatic proof of the utility of Starship, the spacecraft Musk says will eventually ferry SpaceX-backed colonists and up to 100 tons of cargo per journey to the planet Mars, and act as a sort of demo for the future of commercial spaceflight. It is planned to consist of a roughly six-day trip around the moon that Musk says will be the furthest any human has travelled from the planet Earth.
Those not selected will at the very least receive a consolation prize in the form of a promotional image with their face on it.
“What I’m most looking forward to is to see my home planet, the big blue Earth with my own eyes,” Maezawa said in a promotional video released Tuesday. “And then after coming out from the dark side of the Moon, we may be able to see the ‘Earthrise.’ Like the sunrise, Earth’s round shape will appear from beyond the Moon’s horizon.”
“How will we feel when we experience something so phenomenal?” Maezawa added, saying his primary motivations for going on the flight included satisfying his curiosity, reminding himself how precious the Earth is, and to “be reminded of how small, how insignificant I am. In space I think I will realise how small I am, how much more I have to experience, how much harder I should work, and how much more I should grow.”
Maezawa is a known publicity hound whose lunar ambitions seem to coincide with clothing-marketing imperatives, and he had previously announced (and sadly later abandoned) a competition on reality TV to find a girlfriend willing to fly to space with him. As TechCrunch noted, Maezawa’s original plan was to bring eight artists before he had an epiphany that everyone creative is an artist of sorts. So it’s reasonable to suspect that plans for the crew roster could change again, even assuming the craft leaves the ground in 2023 as Musk currently says it will.
Not much news has emerged about the dearMoon project since it began in 2018, though SpaceX has been steadily working on Starship. SpaceX’s SN9 rocket, a prototype for the spacecraft, experienced what the company referred to as “rapid unscheduled disassembly” during a high-altitude launch test last month, a euphemism for engine issues during landing that led to the craft obliterating itself. Another SpaceX prototype, SN8, suffered a similar fate during a test in December 2020.
Several prior test models either exploded, burst, or collapsed in on themselves prior to that. The Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation into the February 2021 incident amid reports SpaceX had violated safety regulations during prior tests, though it later issued an all-clear for the company to launch an SN10 prototype in the coming days.