Yusaky Maezawa, the billionaire tycoon behind Japan’s Zozotown online fashion mall, has canceled plans for a SpaceX lunar flyby. Maezawa first began his plans back in 2018 but has pointed to uncertainty about when the flight might become possible. Maezawa, who had already been to space once thanks to a trip aboard a Russian Soyuz craft that took him to the International Space Station in 2021, originally purchased seats for himself and eight companions. The purchase officially took place in 2022 for a flight Maezawa hoped would take place in 2023.

A First That Could Have Been

At the time, the date was seen as optimistic, but possible, based on observations of the SpaceX Spaceship mega-rocket project. Maezawa’s chosen date would have made the flight the first private trip around the moon.

However, a statement posted online said that “without clear schedule certainty in the near-term, it is with a heavy heart that Maezawa made the unavoidable decision to cancel the project.” Expressing that the project had become “unfeasible,” the statement went on to say, “To all who have supported this project and looked forward to this endeavor, we sincerely appreciate it and apologize for this outcome.”

Inspiration from the “dearMoon” project

The companions chosen for Maezawa’s “dearMoon” project had come from a pool of one million applicants. The flight would have included DJ Steve Aoki, filmmaker Brendan Hall, and the famed rapper Choi Seung-hyun, who leads the K-pop group Big Bang.

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Choi had been particularly vocal about his excitement for the project. “I cannot wait,” he said in a video published on the dearMoon website, in which he described childhood fantasies about space and the moon. He also said, “When I finally see the moon closer, I look forward to my personal growth, and returning to Earth as an artist with an inspiration.”

In response to the cancellation, Choi released a statement of gratitude and encouragement. “I am deeply grateful to Mr. Yusaku Maesawa for conceptualizing the ‘dearMoon’ project,” he said. “My dream to travel to the moon is not over… It has become the ultimate and greatest goal of my life, an official challenge.”

The First Private Flight is Inevitable

Maezawa has not ruled out the eventual success of a lunar flyby, saying in a post on X, “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.”

He is also keeping in mind that this is the nature of developmental projects, saying, “It is what it is, but it is still uncertain when Starship can launch.” The SpaceX mega-rocket did attempt two test flights in 2023, both of which resulted in dramatic explosions within minutes of liftoff. A third test that took place in March of this year saw more success, nearly completing an hour-long test flight, but it did not successfully return to Earth.

“It’s incredible to see how much farther we got this time around,” said SpaceX’s Dan Huot shortly after the third test’s failure. NASA is also eagerly awaiting the success of SpaceX’s Starship program, hoping that the vehicle will be ready in time for a targeted 2026 moon landing.