Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Japanese Billionaire Parties Around the Moon

          By Brian Orlotti

On September 17th , SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and an entourage of artists will visit the Moon in 2023, making them the first private citizens ever to fly beyond low Earth orbit.

Maezawa, founder of Japanese e-commerce giant Zozotown, will fly around the moon aboard a "Big F*cking Rocket" (BFR). A group of six to eight artists of his choosing, from painters and sculptors to fashion designers and architects, will join Maezawa on his journey to share the experience.

The group will also share their experiences with the public via a website ( that Maezawa has created just for the mission.

Neither Musk nor Maezawa would disclose the flight’s cost, but both confirmed that Maezawa has already made a substantial downpayment.

Because Maezawa has shouldered the full cost of the flight, the artists travelling with him will fly for free.

Musk emphasized that the mission will be dangerous and that the 2023 launch date is not certain.

As part of its development, SpaceX plans to put the BFR through short "hopper tests" in 2019 and high-altitude, high-velocity test flights in 2020. Should these tests go well, the BFR’s first orbital flight could take place in two to three years’ time.

SpaceX will also perform a number of additional uncrewed test flights before putting Maezawa and the artists on board. Musk estimates a total BFR development cost of around $5Bln US ($ CDN), and thanked Maezawa for providing a significant chunk of funding toward that end.

SpaceX’s BFR will be the company’s premier spacecraft and the workhorse for achieving the company’s goal: human settlement of the solar system.

A multi-role vehicle, the BFR will eventually handle such tasks as fuel tanker, launch/repair/retrieval of satellites, space junk cleanup, point-to-point orbital passenger flights on Earth and ferrying human expeditions to the Moon and Mars.

As part of his announcement, Musk also provided an update on the BFR’s design.

The craft will be taller than previously stated at 118 metres instead of 106 metres. The new design will also feature three actuated rear fins that double as landing pads, as well as two fins near its nose.

The BFR’s previous design had only two small wings at the back.

Some may dismiss Maezawa and company’s trip around the moon as a rich man’s whim; a stunt born of boredom. In truth, however, it is a powerful statement on the opening of the space frontier; that space can be a place for all humans, if we so wish it.
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a network operator at the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION), a not-for-profit network service provider to the education and research sectors.

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