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Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to become first space tourist

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Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to become first space tourist

Yusaku Maezawa on July 3, 2018.
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Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will be the first private customer to travel around the moon, SpaceX 's CEO Elon Musk announced on Monday.

The one-week flight — scheduled to take place in 2023 — will see Maezawa become the first man to travel around the Moon since the wind down of NASA's Apollo programme in 1972.

Here's what you need to know about him:

$2.9 billion

Maezawa, 42, is the founder of ZOZOTOWN, Japan's largest online clothing retailer, and his private fortune is estimated to total $2.9 billion according to Forbes magazine.

A music lover and autodidact, Maezawa decided against university and moved to the US after high school. Upon his return two years later, he launched a mail-order album business which slowly morphed into a clothing business. Success was such that he eschewed pursuing a career in music despite his band — Switch Style, formed with classmates in high school — having signed with a major label.

Art lover

Along with music, art is his other big passion. Last year, he spent $110.5 million to buy a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat. His private collection also includes works by Picasso, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons.

His dedication to art also extends to the Moon: Maezawa announced on Monday that he will foot the bill for six to eight artists to join him on his travel in space 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," he said.

He added that he has not yet decided who would be accompanying him but said he would like them to come from different fields including cinema, music, fashion and art. A website "dearmoon.earth" has been launched to update the public on the preparation for the trip.

Second-time lucky?

In February 2017, Elon Musk announced that two people had each put down "a significant deposit" to fly around the Moon on SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Rocket. Maezawa was one of them.

The trip was meant to take place this year but ended up being scrapped with Musk saying SpaceX's journey to the Moon would instead be done with a Big Falcon Rocket (BFR).

Neither Musk nor Maezawa confirmed how much the Japanese billionaire paid for the 2023 mission but the SpaceX boss said the down payment will "have a material effect on paying for cost and development of BFR."

The BFR's development cost should reach $5 billion, Musk revealed.