If you’re an artist with a lifelong goal of heading to the moon, then look no further. In a live-streamed conference with a virtual audience of more than 100,000 people, SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced the world’s first private passenger to fly around the moon, and the man has some seriously out-of-this-world plans.
Entrepreneurial billionaire Yusaku Maezawa went above and beyond to purchase not only his seat, but additional spots designated for six to eight musicians, photographers, architects, and other artist to join him in the weeklong 240,000-mile trek to the moon aboard the Big F---ing Rocket, more appropriately known as the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR). He says his new project #dearmoon is an effort to inspire world peace through art.
“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon,” said Maezawa at a Monday evening press conference held at the SpaceX Los Angeles headquarters. “Just staring at the moon filled my imagination. It’s always there and it’s continued to inspire humanity. That is why I could not pass up this opportunity to see the moon up close, and at the same time I did not want to have such a fantastic experience by myself.”
Maezawa said he would not share how much his new endeavor cost him, but Musk assured the trek will be free for attending artists and estimates BFR system development costs will come in around $5 billion.
In addition, the Tesla CEO unveiled the BFR's new product design in what he says is the “final iteration in terms of architectural decisions.” New plans feature forward and rear actuated fins that allow the rocket to fly in a “counterintuitive” way, a payload of an estimated 100 metric tons, and a length of 118 meters. The lunar trajectory roughly follows the path of the 1968 Apollo 8 mission that orbited around the moon.
Next up in the very truncated SpaceX timeline includes “a lot of test flights.” Musk says hopper flights will start next year, with high velocity and high altitude flights beginning in 2020. If things “go well,” he says the company could be doing its first orbital test flights within 2-3 years. If things go wrong, well, they could go very wrong.
“This is no walk in the park here,” Musk warned. “It requires a lot of training and, when you’re pushing the frontier, it’s not a sure thing – it’s not just taking an air flight somewhere. There is some chance that something can go wrong.”
The announcement marks the tenth anniversary of the first successful SpaceX flight to orbit in 2008. In memory of that flight, Musk launched his announcement into a rather esoteric territory.
“It’s important to bear in mind there could be some natural event or some manmade event that ends civilization and life as we know it,” he said. “It’s important that we try to become a multi-planet civilization and extend life beyond earth, and do so as quickly as we can.”
If you’ve been following SpaceX endeavors over the last decade, then you’re well aware of Musk's tendencies to aim high, but not always end in success. The Falcon Heavy made its first test flight in February – four years later than anticipated.
As for the 2023 launch goal, Musk says he wants to be clear that he is “definitely not sure” if it will happen on time, but when it does he may also be on board.