Yusaku Maezawa and his band of merry astronauts will become the first lunar voyagers since the last US Apollo mission in 1972, if SpaceX can pull the trip off.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa poses with a model rocket and space helmet prior to a press conference in Tokyo. on October 9, 2018.
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa poses with a model rocket and space helmet prior to a press conference in Tokyo. on October 9, 2018. (AFP)

A Japanese billionaire has thrown open a private lunar expedition to eight people from around the world, a chance that comes along just once in a blue moon. 

Yusaku Maezawa, an online fashion tycoon, was announced in 2018 as the first man to book a spot aboard the lunar spaceship being developed by SpaceX.

Maezawa, who paid an undisclosed sum for the trip expected to launch around 2023, originally said he planned to invite six to eight artists to join him on the voyage.

But on Wednesday, in a video posted on his Twitter account, he revealed a broader application process.

"I'm inviting you to join me on this mission. Eight of you from all around the world," he said.

"I have bought all the seats, so it will be a private ride," he added.

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Only two criteria needed

Maezawa said his initial plan of inviting artists had "evolved" because he came to believe that "every single person who is doing something creative could be called an artist."

The Japanese entrepreneur said applicants would need to fulfill just two criteria: being ready to "push the envelope" creatively, and being willing to help other crew members do the same.

In all, he said around 10 to 12 people will be on board the trip, which is expected to loop around the moon before returning to Earth.

The application timeline for spots on the trip calls for would-be space travellers to pre-register by March 14, with initial screening carried out by March 21.

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First lunar travellers after 40 years

No deadlines are given for the next stages – an "assignment" and an online interview – but final interviews and medical checkups are currently scheduled for late May 2021, according to Maezawa's website.

Maezawa and his band of merry astronauts will become the first lunar voyagers since the last US Apollo mission in 1972 – if SpaceX can pull the trip off.

Last month, a prototype of its Starship crashed in a fireball as it tried to land upright after a test flight, the second such accident, after the last prototype of the Starship met a similar fate in December.

The company hopes the reusable, 120-metre rocket system will one day carry crew and cargo to the moon, Mars and beyond.

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Source: AFP