The last time that humanity set foot on the lunar surface, Richard Nixon was still president and Pink Floyd was still in the midst of recording their seminal album about its dark side. And while SpaceX's tourism plans don't involve actually setting down on our nearest celestial neighbor, the company does hope to put Yusaku Maezawa, the billionaire founder of Japanese fashion retailer, Zozotown, as close to it as any human has been in the past couple of decades.
During a press event at its headquarters in Hawthorne California on Monday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told the assembled audience that he wants humanity "to become a multi-planet civilization as soon as possible" and that he hopes to "make people excited about the future."
"Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon," Maezawa chimed in. "Just staring at the moon fueled my imagination; it's always there and has continued to inspire humanity. That is why I do not pass up this opportunity to see the moon up close."
Musk also provided some details as to what will take place during his upcoming trip. For one, it turns out that Maezawa will not be traveling alone. When the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) launches in 2023, Maezawa will go on his 5-day expedition with 6 to 8 artists -- from architects and musicians to fashion designers and visual media creators -- selected from around the globe.
Maezawa also took the opportunity to launch his tie-in Dear Moon Project (@DearMoonProject) which he hopes will "inspire the dreamer inside all of us." There is no word yet on how much Maezawa is spending for the honor of being SpaceX's first paying civilian customer, though he did disclose that he has already issued a sizeable down payment and will pay for the artists' flights in addition to his own.
Musk revealed new specs on the BFR spacecraft that Maezawa will be riding in. Originally, SpaceX had planned to utilize its Falcon Heavy rockets to blast a Dragon crew capsule to the moon and back. However, the company has since opted instead to use its newly minted BFR which, coincidentally, is being constructed at the Port of Los Angeles.
The Big Falcon Ship (BFS), which rides at the tip of the 118-meter long BFR like a giant hood ornament, is designed to hold up to 100 people and 1100 cubic meters of cargo. However, during Maezawa's trip, it will only carry a minimal crew to make weight space for extra food, water, and parts in case the mission goes sideways in mid-flight. Details on technical details like the life support, navigation and safety measures remained scarce following the press event.
With a fuel refill from an orbital tanker ship, the BFR should be able to tote 100 tons of supplies all the way to the surface of Mars thanks to its array of 31 Raptor engines and their combined 5,400 tons of thrust. What's more, if SpaceX manages to get to the Red Planet and then set up a fuel storage system there, ships will eventually be able to "rock hop" across the inner planets, potentially all the way out to the edges of the solar system, Musk explained.
The BFR is expected to be ready for ground testing at some point in 2019. Musk believes the first uncrewed BFR flight to Mars will take place as early as 2022 while crewed flights should start two years after that. "I can't wait," Musk quipped. "I'm super fired up about this. This is amazing."