Elon Musk introduces Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa as first BFR customer

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SpaceX announced Monday that billionaire Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa will become the aerospace company's first private passenger on a voyage around the moon, taking another major step in the race to commercialize space travel.

Maezawa, 42, will take his trip round the moon in SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) spaceship and will be the first man to travel to Earth's only natural satellite since the USA ended its Apollo missions in 1972.

When the reporters asked Musk if he considered being a co-passenger, he did not rule out the possibility. "So that is why I choose to go to the Moon with artists", said Yusaku Maezawa, founder of the Japanese retail website Zozotown, on Monday. He is also a high profile art collector, and the owner of a $110.5 million Jean-Michel Basquiat piece.

It will seat about a dozen, so that's how Maezawa can bring his artist friends.

"I wish to create fantastic works of art for humankind", Mr Maezawa said.

"We've been approached to do a crewed mission beyond the moon from some private individuals", Musk said at the time, not providing the names or gender of those individuals.

The event is schedule for 9pm ET, and SpaceX usually does a great job with its live streams so we can expect plenty of commentary and context both before and after the formal announcement.

Elon Musk has revealed the identity of the billionaire who has paid to fly around the moon in a SpaceX rocket - in what is a giant leap for space tourism.

The average distance from Earth to the moon is about 237,685 miles.

The mission is planned to launch on 2023 and it will be the first moon landing by humans since NASA's Apollo 17 landed in 1972. The space agency aims to build a gateway in the vicinity of the moon, complete with staff, during the 2020s.

Maezawa's journey to the Moon - scheduled to start in 2023 - is likely to last for about a week.

Instead, Maezawa is to travel on what's known as the "free return trajectory", where the rocket slingshots around the Moon before heading back to Earth's surface, the BBC reports.

It's not the same mission SpaceX founder Elon Musk outlined past year.

That original mission would have used a Falcon Heavy rocket - the most powerful rocket flying today - and a Dragon crew capsule similar to the one Nasa astronauts will use to fly to the International Space Station as early as next year.

After being announced as the first BFR customer, Maezawa joined Musk on stage. Musk has designs on sending spacecraft to Mars and establishing a colony there.