Japanese billionaire is looking for eight people to join him for a Moon voyage on SpaceX rocket

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa invited the public on Tuesday to apply for a spot on SpaceX’s Starship in his private mission around the moon in 2023. Eight people will be selected from around the world, he said.

“I want people from all kinds of backgrounds to join,” Maezawa said in a video. “It will be 10 to 12 people in all, but I will be inviting 8 people to come along on the ride.”

Maezawa, the founder of Japan’s largest online fashion retailer, is worth about $2 billion. He was revealed as Starship’s first signed passenger back in 2018 during an event with Elon Musk at SpaceX’s California headquarters. At the event, Maezawa, an avid art collector, announced his Dear Moon Project, which aims to bring “six to eight artists from around the world” to join him in a roughly six-day lunar flyby mission sometime in 2023. “These artists will be asked to create something after they return to Earth, and these masterpieces will inspire the dreamer within all of us,” Maezawa said at the time.

Updates on the project have been scant over the past two years. In January 2020, Maezawa launched a bizarre campaign to search for a “female partner” who would accompany him on his trip around the Moon. A website for the contest received 27,722 applications, and Japanese streaming service AbemaTV was set to document the mission in a reality TV show called “Full Moon Lovers.” Weeks later, the show was cancelled and Maezawa called off his search due to “personal reasons,” he tweeted, apologizing to the AbemaTV crew and all the applicants.

Starship is SpaceX’s next-generation, fully reusable Mars rocket system designed to ferry humans and up to 100 tons of cargo on future missions into deep space. The company has been rapidly testing early iterations of the rocket in Boca Chica, Texas. Two recent high-altitude flight tests launched and flew successfully, but both ended in fiery explosions on landing attempts. Under a rigorous and sometimes bumpy development timeline, Musk and SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell have said Starship’s first orbital flight could come at the end of 2021.

SpaceX’s other crew vehicle, Crew Dragon, is already in its operational phase and is racking up future flights with private astronauts and tourists. The acorn-shaped capsule flew its first two crews of astronauts to the International Space Station last year under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The private astronaut missions lined up include a flight to the space station planned for early next year carrying real estate investors and philanthropists, and an “all-civilian” charity-focused mission announced last month that’s slated for launch by year’s end.