Elon Musk’s company SpaceX has unveiled the first private passenger it plans to fly around the Moon.
Japanese billionaire, entrepreneur and online fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa, 42, announced: “I choose to go to the Moon”.
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) September 18, 2018
He is expected to lift-off on the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), a launch system unveiled by Mr Musk in 2016.
The mission will mark the first visit to the Moon by humans since Nasa’s Apollo 17 landing in 1972.
The announcement was made at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on Tuesday.
The company said the flight represented “an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of travelling to space”.
Elon Musk introduced Yusaku Maezawa, founder of the online Japanese clothing company Zozo, as his first customer for a voyage around the moon aboard a SpaceX rocket https://t.co/dDXjLbqtBJ
— The New York Times (@nytimes) September 18, 2018
Earlier on Twitter, Mr Musk had already hinted that the passenger would be from Japan.
Only 24 humans have visited the Moon – all of them Americans. Three of the Apollo missions – 8, 9 and 13 – orbited without landing, as this one will.
However, the timeline for this launch remains unclear, and it relies on a rocket that hasn’t been built yet.
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.
At the time, SpaceX was to have used its heavy-lift Falcon Heavy rocket and the crewed version of the existing Dragon spacecraft.
Thai cave rescuer Vernon Unsworth sues Elon Musk over his repeated claims the British diver is child abuser https://t.co/wJeixByjo9
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) September 17, 2018
But in February this year, Mr Musk said SpaceX would concentrate on the BFR for future crewed missions.
The BFR has never flown, but Mr Musk has released some technical details about it. The rocket is expected to stand 106m high and have a diameter of 9m.
By comparison, the Falcon Heavy is 70m tall and consists of a central rocket core surrounded by two boosters, each with a diameter of 3.66m.
On Monday, Mr Musk unveiled new artist impressions of the BFR and the spaceship which will carry passengers around the Moon.
It appeared to confirm some design changes to the spaceship, including three large fins near the back and a black heat-shield on the craft’s underside.
Eventually, the BFR should be able to lift a whopping 150 tonnes into low-Earth orbit – that is more than the US Saturn V rockets that lofted the Apollo spacecraft.
The SpaceX founder has attracted some uncomfortable headlines of late – he recently smoked marijuana during a webcast with a US comedian.
Shares in Tesla have had a turbulent time after the entrepreneur said in a tweet last month that he wanted to take the carmaker private. He abandoned the idea about two weeks later.
Earlier on Monday it emerged that Mr Musk was being sued for defamation over his repeated claims that a British cave diver was a child abuser.
The lawsuit brought by Vernon Unsworth, who helped with the rescue of 12 Thai teenagers from a flooded cave in July, seeks $75,000 (£57,000) in compensation and an injunction against Mr Musk to stop further allegations.