Here’s the first private passenger to fly around the moon

This artist’s illustration courtesy of SpaceX obtained Sept 17, 2018, shows the SpaceX BFR launch vehicle passenger spacecraft, enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space. Source: AFP PHOTO /SPACEX/HANDOUT.

SPACE travel is upon us, with multiple companies and developers racing to be the pioneering space tourism provider.

In 2016, SpaceX founder, CEO, and lead designer Elon Musk unveiled its next-generation launch vehicle and spacecraft system called Big Falcon Rocket (BFR).

The BFR is meant to support all SpaceX launch service provider capabilities with a single set of very large vehicles: Earth-orbit, Lunar-orbit, interplanetary missions, and even intercontinental passenger transport on Earth.

In 2017, Musk announced he would be sending two paying passengers on a loop around the moon.

Then, a surprise Twitter announcement came last week, which revealed SpaceX had signed the world’s first private passenger to fly around the moon aboard its BFR launch vehicle.

SpaceX said it’s “an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space”, adding that more details about who’s flying and why will be revealed on Sept 17, 2018.

Leading up to the announcement, Musk shared new artist impressions of the BFR and the spaceship which will carry passengers around the moon.

According to Musk, the rocket is expected to stand 106 meters high and have a diameter of nine meters.

Musk also made it a point to drop juicy hints, tweeting an emoji of a Japanese flag days before the big reveal.

So, who did SpaceX pick to become its first private passenger? Here is what we know so far:

His name is Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire who made his fortune by founding the wildly popular online fashion retailer Zozo.

Maezawa, who also used to be a former drummer in a punk band, will be the first passenger to travel the moon since the US’ Apollo missions ended in 1972, according to Reuters.

This is, of course, assuming no one will beat SpaceX to it in the meantime.

The average distance from Earth to the moon is about 382,500 kilometers and only 24 humans have been to the moon in history, all of them Americans.

It is unclear how much Maezawa paid for the trip, but he said he will invite six to eight artists, architects, designers and other creative people on the weeklong journey.

Musk promised that the BFR will shuttle the passenger to the moon and eventually fly humans and cargo to Mars, using the hashtag #OccupyMars.

That having said, the BFR is far from ready to send a passenger around the moon as it has never flown. In fact, it has not even been built yet.

Musk has ambitious plans to have it ready for an unpiloted trip to Mars in 2020 and a crewed flight in 2024.