Japanese billionaire opens crew selection for dearMoon mission
March 2, 2021
— More than two years after he announced his intentions to fly a group of artists on a SpaceX mission around the moon, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has said he is expanding his choice of his crewmates to include almost everyone.
"I began to think that maybe every single person who is doing something creative could be called an artist," Maezawa said in a video statement introducing the new recruitment for his "dearMoon" mission on Tuesday (March 2). "That was the conclusion that I came to and that is why I wanted to reach out to a wider, more diverse audience, to give more people across the world the opportunity to join this journey."
As first proposed in September 2018, the dearMoon mission was to include six to eight artists of Maezawa's choosing, who would join him on board SpaceX's then-still-be-named Starship spacecraft in 2023. Now, anyone who considers themselves to be an artist, can sign up on the project's website to enter the crew selection process.
Maezawa now has only two initial conditions for his potential crewmates.
"There are two key criteria," he said. "First of all, whatever activity you are into, by going in space, I hope that you can push its envelope, to help other people and greater society in some way."
"Are you satisfied with what you are doing right now? By going to space could you do something that's even better, even bigger? If that sounds like you, please join me," Maezawa said.
The second requirement is a sense of teamwork and collaboration.
"You have to be willing and able to support other crew members who share similar aspirations," said Maezawa.
How the eight self-identified artists will be selected to fly is still be announced. A schedule on the dearMoon website only shows that an initial screening will be completed by March 21, followed by an "assignment" and online interview, leading to a final interview and medical check by late May.
The crew will be selected by late June to provide time for training and preparation throughout the rest of 2021 and all of next year.
Launching sometime in 2023, the dearMoon mission will take 3 days to get to the moon and three days to return to Earth.
"What's really significant about the dearMoon mission is that it will be the first private spaceflight, first commercial spaceflight with humans beyond Earth orbit," said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO. "This has never occurred before, and we're going to go past the moon so it will actually end being further — this mission we expect people will go further than any human has ever gone from planet Earth."
The current distance record is held by the crew of NASA's Apollo 13 mission, who in April 1970 flew 158 miles (254 km) beyond the lunar surface on the far side of the moon, or 248,655 miles (400,171 km) away from Earth.
"So I think this will be very exciting for people to tune in and watch this, and enjoy the flight vicariously," said Musk. "And I know Maezawa is also providing places on the ship for artists and others to join, so he wants this to be something that is exciting and inspiring for the whole world."
Musk said that SpaceX is still on schedule to launch the mission in two years.
"I'm highly confident that we will have reached orbit many times with Starship before 2023 and that it will be safe enough for human transport by [then]. It is looking very, very promising," he said.
To date, SpaceX has flown two prototype Starship spacecraft on high-altitude tests at its Boca Chica, Texas launch facility. Both vehicles performed well in flight but ended up impacting the ground and exploding, rather than touching down on legs as planned. A third test flight could come as soon as Wednesday (March 3).
SpaceX's Starship is also one of three commercial vehicles chosen by NASA as a potential Human Landing System (HLS) to fly astronauts to and from the surface of the moon as part of the agency's Artemis program.
The news of the dearMoon recruitment process came just days after a competition ended for another SpaceX mission, Inspiration4, which will launch four people, including two contest winners, on a Dragon capsule into Earth orbit. That mission, which is slated to fly with the first all-civilian crew before the end of 2021, is also funded by a billionaire.
Maezawa hopes the dearMoon mission will also serve as inspiration, not only the artists on board and the world watching from the ground, but for himself, too.
"I want to remind myself just how amazing our planet really is. I want to express my appreciation for this extraordinary planet I call home," said Maezawa. "Lastly, I want to be reminded of how small, how insignificant I am."
"In space, I think I will realize anew how small I am, how much more I have to experience, how much harder I should work and how much more I can grow," he said.
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has called for applicants to join his dearMoon SpaceX Starship mission. (dearMoon)
A prototype of SpaceX's Starship awaits being moved to the launch pad in Texas as the moon shines through the clouds. (SpaceX)
The flight plan for the dearMoon mission shows the six-day path the SpaceX Starship will fly to the moon and back. (dearMoon)
Everyone who signs up for the dearMoon mission receives a digital crew certificate after completing pre-registration. (dearMoon)