Japanese billionaire businessman revealed as SpaceX's first Moon traveler

Enlarge Image Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa speaks about his moon mission through SpaceX.                  Video screenshot by CNET

Enlarge Image Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa speaks about his moon mission through SpaceX. Video screenshot by CNET

But the unveiling, in the shadow of the engines of two massive and gleaming rockets, was also a testament to Musk's belief in making humans a multi-planet species.

Our correspondent, Mary MacCarthy, joins us from Los Angeles.

He said Maezawa, founder of Japan's largest retail website and one the country's richest people, came to SpaceX with the idea for the flight. Musk hinted that the mystery person may be from Japan, tweeting a Japanese flag emoji. "If things go well, we could be doing the first orbital flights in about two to three years", he said, with "many" such test flights planned with crews before humans fly on the vehicle.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is hours away from announcing who will be the first human to fly around the moon in his company's Big Falcon Rocket.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, who has booked SpaceX's first private flight around the moon on a Big Falcon Rocket, meet the press during the mission's unveiling at the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, California on September 17, 2018.

"Finally, I can tell you that I choose to go to the Moon!" the Japanese entrepreneur proclaimed.

In typical fashion for any company owned by Elon Musk, they've made a decision to do so by blasting a single person - the world's first private passenger, around the moon and back to test the rocket's capability for far space travel. The 42-year-old said he will invite six to eight artists, architects, designers and other creative people on the weeklong journey in 2023.

The first space tourist was Dennis Tito, an American businessman who in 2001 paid some $20million to fly on a Russian spaceship to the International Space Station.

No matter who SpaceX has signed for its "BFR Lunar Mission", the company is hyping it as an epic trip. Musk said houses equipped with Tesla's Solar Roof would feed energy to Powerwall, a sleek storage unit created to act as an electricity fill-up station for both the house and a Tesla electric vehicle.

In 2017, Mr Musk announced that he would be sending two paying passengers on a loop around the Moon - which was to have launched as early as this year.

The announcement represents a reprieve from months of bad news for SpaceX founder Elon Musk, whose efforts to take on Twitter trolls and to take private Tesla, another company he founded and now leads.

About one year after that, in February of this year, SpaceX debuted the long-awaited Falcon Heavy, which became the world's most powerful operational launch vehicle.

A render of BFR, shown during SpaceX's press conference.

In an interview in March, Musk said the ship was now being built, adding "I think we'll probably be able to do short flights, short sort of up-and-down flights, probably sometime in the first half of next year". The moon trip would last four to five days, he said.

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