'Sudden, brief, and unexpected:' dearMoon crew laments cancellation of private SpaceX Starship moon mission

portraits of 11 diverse people against a backdrop of the moon
Crew group mosaic of the dearMoon private SpaceX Starship crew. (Image credit: dearMoon)

The dearMoon crew has shared their disappointment on social media following the mission's abrupt cancellation. 

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa canceled his planned flight around the moon on June 1 due to delays with SpaceX's Starship megarocket, which has yet to fly a single crewed test flight. Maezawa initially booked the private trip in 2018 and invited eight artists to join him with the expectation that the project, called dearMoon, would launch by the end of 2023. 

"I can't plan my future in this situation, and I feel terrible making the crew members wait longer, hence the difficult decision to cancel at this point in time," Maezawa said in a statement on X (formerly Twitter). "I apologize to those who were excited for this project to happen." 

Related: Japanese billionaire cancels private flight around the moon on SpaceX's giant Starship

The dearMoon crew consisted of eight creatives working in disciplines ranging from music to photography, film and YouTube. While there were no scientific experiments or other responsibilities expected of the crew (aside from basic mission safety obligations), the hope was that the artists would create works inspired by the trip.

Following Maezawa's decision to abort the mission, some of the crew members have expressed disappointment in losing their chance to fly in space. 

"I regret to share this unfortunate news," Yemi A.D., one of the dearMoon crew members and multi-disciplinary creator, said in a statement on X. "While the #dearMoon mission has come to an end, my commitment to space-exploration projects and supporting young, disadvantaged individuals in achieving their own Moonshots remains unwavering."

Crew member and Everyday Astronaut founder Tim Dodd also shared feelings of disappointment in a lengthy response to the mission's cancellation. "But the reality is, I'll need to allow myself to grieve this loss as it became a big part of my life, my dreams, and my visions" Dodd said in his post on X

Meanwhile, other crew members have criticized Maezawa's decision, suggesting it was made unilaterally and in haste. 

"You didn't ask us if we minded waiting or give us an option or discuss that you were thinking of canceling until you'd already made the decision," Rhiannon Adam, dearMoon crew member and photographer from Ireland, said in a statement on X. "I can only speak for myself but I'd have waited till it was ready."

Filmmaker and crew member Brendan Hall shared similar feelings in a public statement shared online, suggesting the decision to cancel was made by Maezawa alone and that the crew would have waited longer for Starship to be ready.

"Our crew, from the many conversations we've had together, were ready to wait as long as it took for this flight to happen," Hall said in the statement. "As many of us know, shifting timelines are the inherent nature of spaceflight. Every day the space industry is achieving a milestone that at one time was thought to be impossible. Through these years, our crew has stayed well informed of Starship's development through publicly available information and discourse, and were well aware that we would potentially be investing many years into this mission. The cancellation of this mission was sudden, brief, and unexpected." 

SpaceX's Starship and its Super Heavy booster make up the world's tallest and most powerful rocket ever to fly. The first uncrewed test flight launched in April 2023, but failed to reach space. The second test flight in November 2023 flew higher but also failed

During the vehicle's third flight test, on March 14 of this year, Starship reached orbital velocity, but neither the spacecraft nor booster survived upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere. A fourth Starship test flight launched on June 6, during which the vehicle made a successful landing burn before splashing down in the Indian Ocean.

Despite the vehicle's progress, Maezawa's decision to cancel the flight ultimately came down to uncertainty over when Starship would be ready to fly the dearMoon mission. 

"I understand the financial implications for MZ, that this was costly. It was a generous dream. But the reality is that is all that it was," Adam said in another post on X. "To take it away so unceremoniously and with so little care to us — that undermines the stated mission values that we trusted in."

Dodd also commented on the project's optimistic timeline and lack of transparency.

"The one thing I have a hard time reconciling is the timeline. Had I known this could have ended within a year and a half of it being publicly announced, I would've never agreed to it," Dodd expressed later in his post on X. "We had no prior knowledge of this possibility. I voiced my opinions, even before the announcement, that it was improbable for dearMoon to happen in the next few years." 

While Dodd noted that he was "extremely disappointed," he also stated that he has "gained new friends, had new adventures and learned more about [himself]" through dearMoon, despite the mission's cancellation.

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Samantha Mathewson
Contributing Writer

Samantha Mathewson joined Space.com as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13. 

  • JAS
    I was actually relieved when I heard the news. Even at the point where Starship can make a trip around the moon, I would consider that it is still very early days for the design, making a trip with it by civilians very risky. Maezawa, cutting out like this, might just have saved the lives of all those people currently disappointed. We'll never know for sure. Personally, I don't like the idea of civilians going up in Starship before it has earned a safety record. To do so before that time brings back memories of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster that killed a civilian school teacher who really didn’t know the risks involved. What a hit to the reputation such a disaster would make for SpaceX. We just don't need that risk.
  • Cochituate Beach
    Trying to balance his checkbook, and suddenly realized that pesky down payment check was still out.