Four years after announcing that he’d lead an around-the-moon mission aboard SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has named the eight people he wants to fly with him.
In 2018, Maezawa said he’d fund a mission aimed at letting creative artists on the level of the late Pablo Picasso or Michael Jackson experience a trip beyond Earth orbit. Some of the people he’s picked are making use of creative channels that didn’t exist when Picasso was in his prime.
The eight crew members — and two alternates — were chosen out of more than a million people from 249 countries and regions who registered their interest via Maezawa’s DearMoon website.
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“I’m very thrilled to have these amazing people join me on my journey to the moon and excited to see what inspiring creations they come up with in space,” Maezawa said as he announced his selections.
The eight primary crew members are:
- Steve Aoki, an electronic dance music artist, DJ and record producer, born in Miami. (Video)
- TOP (Choi Seung Hyun), a South Korean rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer and actor. (Video)
- Yemi A.D., a Czech choreographer, art director and actor. (Video)
- Rhiannon Adam, an Irish-born photographic artist specializing in portraiture and social documentary projects. (Video)
- Tim Dodd, a science communicator from Iowa who created the “Everyday Astronaut” YouTube channel. (Video)
- Karim Iliya, a photographer and filmmaker who focuses on wildlife and marine environments, based in Iceland. (Video)
- Brendan Hall, an American documentary filmmaker and night sky photographer. (Video)
- Dev D. Joshi, an Indian television actor best-known for his role as a superhero named Baalveer. (Video)
Two backup crew members were also announced, in case any of the primary crew members have to bow out:
- Kaitlyn Farrington, an Idaho-born snowboarder and 2014 Olympic gold medalist. (Video)
- Miyu, a Japanese dancer, artist and model. (Video)
Although Maezawa hasn’t said how much he’ll be paying SpaceX for the DearMoon odyssey, the expense seems certain to amount to tens of millions of dollars, and perhaps on the order of $100 million or more. For what it’s worth, Maezawa is already thought to have paid tens of millions of dollars to the Russians for a visit to the International Space Station in 2021.
The DearMoon flight plan calls for Maezawa and his crew to blast off on a Starship rocket for a roughly six-day journey that would make a circuit around the moon and come back without attempting a landing on the lunar surface.
Crew members could conceivably present artistic works during their zero-G journey, and ideally gain inspiration for future works that build off their space experiences.
“You have seen me flying in space as a superhero,” Dev Joshi said. “Time to make it real.”
The Starship / Super Heavy launch system is still under development at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in South Texas. The DearMoon mission is currently scheduled to take place in 2023, but if Starship experiences the sorts of development schedule delays that are common for new types of rockets, that date is likely to slip.
Dodd has extensively covered Starship’s development — including a series of fiery failures — on his YouTube channel, and he says he’s familiar with the risks.
“But I also have a lot of faith that by the time this mission happens, SpaceX will have iterated and improved the design to be reliable in a way that I don’t think has been possible before,” he said in a DearMoon interview. “As we’ve seen with the Crew Dragon capsule and the Falcon 9, it’s an incredibly robust system. And I have a lot of faith that by the time DearMoon happens, Starship will be on that same level of reliability.”
As it stands now, DearMoon would be the first Starship mission beyond Earth orbit. That initial odyssey would blaze a trail for another round-the-moon mission supported by Dennis Tito, a retired engineer and investment analyst who became the first paying passenger to visit the International Space Station in 2001.
A modified version of SpaceX’s Starship is being developed for NASA’s use as a lunar lander. It would take astronauts down to the moon’s surface for the Artemis 3 mission in the mid-2020s.