Yahoo News explains: Who is Yusaku Maezawa?

Yahoo News Staff

By Dean Arrindell

On Monday, SpaceX announced its first space tourist, who signed up to travel around the moon. The company’s CEO, Elon Musk, introduced Yusaku Maezawa, who plans to ride the company’s Big Falcon Rocket.

But Maezawa didn’t just buy a seat for himself on the four-to-five-day trip. The Japanese billionaire bought every seat on the SpaceX Big Falcon Rocket. “I choose to go to the moon with artists. … With artists!” he said. “From now, I choose to invite artists from around the world on my journey.”

It’s a project Maezawa calls Dear Moon. He will invite six to eight artists — from film, architecture, painting, sculpture and photography — to travel with him for free. The artists will create works inspired by their experience.

The amount of Maezawa’s payment for the trip wasn’t disclosed, but Musk called it “a very significant deposit.”

How can someone afford to put down a deposit on a space flight and pay for others to come along for the ride? Who is Yusaku Maezawa? Yahoo News explains.

Forbes figures Maezawa’s net worth at $3 billion and ranks him as the 18th-richest person in Japan. The 42-year-old owns the Japanese e-commerce giant Start Today and fashion brand Zozotown.

A former rock drummer, Maezawa moved to the U.S. from Japan for six months in the 1990s. He returned home and began selling T-shirts, CDs and vinyl records from his kitchen while still performing in his band, Switch Style. He eventually chose to leave the band to focus on his business, which turned into Start Today.

Recently, Maezawa has become known as a collector of expensive art. He has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on art, including a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting the bought for $110.5 million. The price for “Untitled” was reportedly the highest ever paid at auction for a work of art by an American artist, and the sixth-highest price for any piece of art.

On Monday, he said the idea to travel to space came to him from looking at a Basquiat painting. “I thought, what if Basquiat had gone to space and had seen the moon up close, or saw the Earth in full view?” he said.

“What wonderful masterpiece would he have created?”

Maezawa’s ride on the SpaceX rocket isn’t scheduled until 2023.