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Billionaire calls off moon flyby adventure

Yusaku Maezawa aboard the ISS in 2021.
Yusaku Maezawa aboard the ISS in 2021. Yusaku Maezawa

A Japanese billionaire has canceled his plan to fly around the moon on SpaceX’s Starship, the most powerful rocket ever developed.

Yusaku Maezawa unveiled his plan for the extravagant lunar-bound tourism flight to great fanfare in 2018. Standing alongside SpaceX chief Elon Musk, Maezawa told an audience that he also planned to pay for eight artists to join him on the mission, which at that time was targeting 2023 for launch.

It won’t have escaped anyone’s notice that 2023 has come and gone, and SpaceX is still testing its new Starship vehicle, which could take off on its fourth test flight in the coming days.

A message on the “dearMoon” mission website posted on Saturday said that “without clear schedule certainty in the near-term, it is with a heavy heart that Maezawa made the unavoidable decision to cancel the project.”

The message continued: “To all who have supported this project and looked forward to this endeavor, we sincerely appreciate it and apologize for this outcome. Although dearMoon is canceled, Maezawa and dearMoon crew members will continue to challenge themselves in their respective fields. We will hold deep respect for SpaceX as they continue to venture into uncharted territories, while we ourselves will move on to the next challenge.”

The news is sure to come as a disappointment for those on the passenger list, with DJ Steve Aoki and Everyday Astronaut YouTuber Tim Dodd among those who had been lined up for the unique experience. But then again, seeing the Starship explode in a fireball on its first two test flights last year may not have filled them with the greatest confidence (though that’s exactly what the testing is for).

Writing on social media on Saturday, Maezawa said that he signed the contract in 2018 “based on the assumption that dearMoon would launch by the end of 2023. It’s a developmental project, so it is what it is, but it is still uncertain as to when Starship can launch. I can’t plan my future in this situation, and I feel terrible making the crew members wait longer, hence the difficult decision to cancel at this point in time. I apologize to those who were excited for this project to happen.”

While Maezawa may well be disheartened at being unable to embark on such an unusual adventure, he can still cherish the memories of an orbital voyage he made in 2021 when he spent nearly two weeks aboard the International Space Station in a mission that he funded himself.

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Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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