SpaceX set to identify first paying passenger for trip aroound the moon

Enlarge Image Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa speaks about his moon mission through SpaceX.                  Video screenshot by CNET

The SpaceX Big Falcon Rocket is scheduled to make the trip in 2023, company founder Elon Musk announced at an event Monday at its headquarters near Los Angeles.

Whoever the mystery passenger is will be among the first space tourists to fly with a commercial company.

"It will have a material effect on paying for the cost of the development of BFR", Musk said of the mission's price. The feed is supposed to start around 9 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. PDT). You can also watch the stream in this story. And earlier this month, a video of Musk smoking marijuana and drinking whiskey on a popular podcast circulated on social media.

The average distance from Earth to the moon is about 382,500kms.

Musk makes much of sending people to the moon for the first time since the end of the Apollo programme on 1972. The outpost would serve as a stepping-off point for the lunar surface, Mars and points beyond.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced Monday night that entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa would be the first private person to fly solo around the moon aboard the company's Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) launch vehicle.

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Whomever the -probably wealthy-passenger is, they likely won't be flying on the BFR alone.

During the announcement last year, SpaceX noted that, "We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year", with the company further noting that the two individuals had already paid a significant deposit for the moon mission.

The BFR spacecraft's shape is reminiscent of the space shuttle, the bus-like United States spaceships that carried astronauts to space 135 times from 1981 to 2011. The fully reusable BFR is designed for trips around Earth, to Mars and beyond. Musk has said he wants it to be able to carry a payload of 100 people into space, and/or the hardware to keep them alive once they get there.

About one year after that, in February of this year, SpaceX debuted the long-awaited Falcon Heavy, which became the world's most powerful operational launch vehicle.

The company has been racing to meet NASA's need of a crew-capable spacecraft to take astronauts to the International Space Station and back, along with Boeing, and both companies have fallen well behind their original schedules.

SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell gave a more generous time frame for BFR's debut during a TED Talk in April, saying it would launch "within a decade". SpaceX is now working on a prototype in a temporary facility located at the port of Los Angeles.

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