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Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to be SpaceX's first tourist to moon

Elon Musk announces e-commerce entrepreneur as first private passenger

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Zozo CEO Yusaku Maezawa attend a press conference on Sept.17. Maezawa will be the first passenger on SpaceX's new Big Falcon Rocket, and the first tourist to take a trip around the moon.   © Getty Images

TOKYO -- Elon Musk's rocket company SpaceX announced on Tuesday that Yusaku Maezawa, the billionaire founder and CEO of Japanese online fashion retailer Start Today, will be the first private passenger to fly around the moon.

Maezawa will fly around the moon on the Big Falcon Rocket, a giant rocket that is being developed by SpaceX, in a trip planned for 2023.

"[The moon] has continued to inspire humanity," Maezawa said at a press conference. "That is why I could not pass up this opportunity to see the moon up close."

The 42-year-old billionaire, who is also known as an avid art collector, said he will take "Earth's top artists" on the voyage and hold an exhibition in space.

Maezawa, a former rock band drummer, launched fashion site Zozotown in 2004. It has since grown into an e-commerce juggernaut that dominates the Japanese online fashion market.

Tuesday's announcement is expected to boost the international awareness of Maezawa and Start Today at a time when the company is trying to expand Zozo, its ambitious private label business, overseas. Zozo offers custom-fit clothing using a polka-dot bodysuit and a smartphone camera to take body measurements. In July, Maezawa announced Zozo's rollout in 72 countries and launched a promotion to give away the bodysuits for free to international customers.

The involvement of Maezawa, who has a net worth of $2.9 billion according to U.S. magazine Forbes, gives Musk a strong financial backer at a time when his ambitious plans are under heavy scrutiny. His electric car company Tesla has been hit with frequent production delays, and Musk was recently criticized for appearing to smoke marijuana during a video interview.

Maezawa's offer "has restored my faith in humanity," said Musk. "Private customers or any customers for BFR are incredibly helpful in funding development of the rocket."

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