TOKYO (AP) — Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa said Friday that K-pop star Top will be one of eight people who will join him on a flight around the moon aboard a SpaceX spacecraft in the coming years.
The Japanese president began plans for a lunar mission in 2018, buying all the seats on the spacecraft. He began accepting applications from around the world in March 2021 for his second space mission after his 12-day mission to the International Space Station last year on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
Maezawa has said the target for a trip to the moon is 2023, but most space watchers view the goal as overly optimistic because the SpaceX starship with its superheavy booster has yet to launch or orbit Earth.
Eight selected for his “dearMoon project” from 1 million applicants, Maezawa made his debut as the lead rapper of K-Pop group Big Bang; American DJ Steve Aoki; Filmmaker Brendan Hall and YouTuber Tim Dodd hail from the United States. The other four are British photographer Karim Illia, Indian actor Dev Joshi, Czech artist Yemi Ati and Irish photographer Rhiannon Adam. American Olympic skier Kaitlyn Farrington and Japanese dancer Miu were selected as backups.
TOP’s real name is Choi Seung-hyun. The 35-year-old started out as an underground rapper before joining one of the world’s biggest boy bands, Big Bang, in 2006.
In a video posted by the DearMoon website, he said that he has been fantasizing about space and the moon since he was a child and “I can’t wait.”
“When I finally get to see the moon up close, I look forward to returning to Earth as an artist with personal growth and inspiration,” he said.
Maezawa made the announcement Friday on Twitter and on the DearMoon project website, after tweeting last week that he had an online meeting with Elon Musk and that his “major announcement about space” was underway.
Maezawa said in a video posted on the Dear Moon website, “Above all, I think it’s important to think that each group is really enjoying this trip, so I hope we can all have fun.”
He and others will be among the first people to travel aboard the SpaceX vehicle, though it will have to clear hurdles, including liftoff and reaching low-Earth orbit. When reached, the trip to Maezawa is expected to take a week. The spacecraft will not land on the moon, but is expected to orbit it for three days, within 200 kilometers (120 miles) of the moon’s surface.
Last year, Maezawa, 47, and his producer Yozo Hirano became the first self-paying tourists to the space station since 2009. He did not disclose the cost of the work, although he paid $80 million.
Maezawa made his fortune in retail, starting Japan’s largest online fashion mall, Zozotown. In 2019, he founded Zozo Inc., an e-commerce company, to devote his time to space travel. resigned from the post of CEO. Forbes magazine estimates his net worth at $1.9 billion.
AP space writer Marcia Dunn in Cape Canaveral, Florida contributed to this story.
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