Japanese billionaire to be first moon tourist

A Japanese billionaire will make history as the first private passenger to take a trip around the moon, but he won't be going alone.

Yusaku Maezawa will be the first SpaceX passenger to the moon.

The 42-year-old founded Japan's largest online fashion retailer, Zozotown, and is an avid art collector. He's inviting up to eight artists to go with him, planning to turn the entire ride into an art project.

SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, has dubbed this flight the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) Lunar Mission.

"Ever since I was a kid I've loved the moon," Mr Maezawa says. "That is why I do not pass up this opportunity to see the moon up close."

The entrepreneur bought all the available seats and will invite eight artists from around the world to go with him. The passengers will spend about a week in space and upon their return, they'll be asked to create something as part of Mr Maezawa's project, called "dearMoon".

"If you hear from me please say yes and accept my invitation; please don't say no," he implored the art community.

He says he got the idea for his project after wondering what his favourite artist, the late Jean Michel Basquiat, would have come up with if he had got close to the moon.

If the trip goes ahead as planned in 2023, it will be the first time someone has travelled to the moon since the Apollo Mission in 1972.

But this trip won't involve a lunar landing. The first prototype spacecraft is currently under construction, and Mr Musk hopes to begin test flights in 2019.

"Depending on how well those go, we'll go high altitude, high velocity flights with the ship in 2020."

He says the first orbital test flight could launch in as little as two years.

The 118-metre-long rocket has room for 100 people , but only a small handful are going on this trip, in case something goes wrong.

"We'll leave a lot of extra room for extra food and oxygen, spare parts," says Mr Musk. "This is a dangerous mission."

It is dangerous, but also historic, expensive and expected to be lots of fun.