Japanese billionaire unveils the 8 artists he'll fly to the moon on SpaceX's Starship dearMoon flight

A Japanese billionaire picked his crewmates for the first-ever artist-centered mission.

Yusaku Maezawa, who made his fortune as an online fashion retailer, announced the eight people who would be flying with him on the dearMoon mission, which aims to use a SpaceX Starship to fly around the moon as soon as next year.

"I hope each and every one will recognize the responsibility that comes with leaving the Earth, travelling to the moon and back," Maezawa says in the video in Japanese, with a translation provided in-video.

The previously-announced 2023 launch date may push back substantially, however, as Starship has not yet been approved for an orbital journey around Earth, let alone a flight to the moon. 

The spaceship has been grounded for more than 18 months as SpaceX awaits approval from the Federal Aviation Administration regarding environmental assessment requirements at its Starbase launch location in South Texas.

Related: SpaceX's Starship video animation is Tron meets Blade Runner in space

The crew of Yusaku Maezawa's (center) dearMoon mission around the moon on a SpaceX Starship rocket. (Image credit: dearMoon)

Riding along with Maezawa will be:

  • Steve Aoki, D.J., producer and electronic dance music artist with several Billboard-charting studio albums;
  • Tim Dodd, YouTube creator of the "Everyday Astronaut" channel (Dodd has interviewed SpaceX founder Elon Musk multiple times on camera);
  • Yemi A.D., artist and choreographer known for his work with JAD Dance Company and with Ye (formerly Kanye West);
  • Karim Iliya, photographer whose publications include National Geographic Magazine;
  • Rhiannon Adam, a photographer who has been supported by the BBC/Royal Geographical Society and won multiple awards, according to their website;
  • Brendan Hall, filmmaker on projects such as the two-hour documentary "Blood Sugar Rising" about diabetes in the United States, according to the Internet Movie Database;
  • Dev Joshi, an "Indian television actor known for portraying the role of Baal Veer in Sony Sab's Baal Veer and Baalveer Returns," according to the Internet Movie Database;
  • T.O.P., a South Korean rapper known as the lead for the boy band Big Bang;
  • Two backup members: dancer Miyu, and snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington.

Each member of the dearMoon crew was briefly quoted in a video from the dearMoon YouTube channel, and the announcement was confirmed on Dodd's and Maezawa's Twitter feeds.

"I don't know what it's going to do to me emotionally, and I guess that's part of the adventure," Dodd says in the video.

Adds Adam, "I expect that this mission will bring about many changes personally and professionally."

The video also includes several views of Starship under testing, including at least one of the static fires of the SpaceX system.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is underwriting a 2023 flight to the moon and back. (Image credit: collectSPACE.com)

Maezawa's dearMoon project was announced in 2018 to bring astronauts to the moon, following a controversial "girlfriend contest" for a now-defunct space mission. Maezawa is underwriting the cost of the seats for the crew.

When the applications for dearMoon opened in August 2021, Maezawa did not specify what qualifications were required to join the mission. 

In December of that year, the Japanese billionaire flew to the International Space Station on a short stint along with his his videographer, Yozo Hirano, and different Russian cosmonauts on a Soyuz spacecraft during launch and landing.

Starship has also been tasked with putting NASA astronauts on the moon during some Artemis program missions, and another billionaire (Dennis Tito) booked a seat in 2021 for himself and his wife Akiko on a future flight around the moon, on a mission for which other people will be announced.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace