SpaceX moon mission to take eight people 'further than any human has ever gone' from Earth

Bankrolled by a Japanese millionaire, the DearMoon mission plans to transport eight people around the moon and back in 2023

Jackson Ryan Former Science Editor
Jackson Ryan was CNET's science editor, and a multiple award-winning one at that. Earlier, he'd been a scientist, but he realized he wasn't very happy sitting at a lab bench all day. Science writing, he realized, was the best job in the world -- it let him tell stories about space, the planet, climate change and the people working at the frontiers of human knowledge. He also owns a lot of ugly Christmas sweaters.
Jackson Ryan
3 min read
SpaceX Starship prototype in flight

The SpaceX Starship prototype, flying high above the launch facility in Boca Chica, Texas


In 2023, will civilians fly around the moon for the first time? According to Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, the answer is yes. He is bankrolling the DearMoon mission, which is intended to take a group of eight people to the moon on SpaceX's still-in-development Starship and loop around Earth's natural satellite on a six-day mission. 

The project, announced by Maezawa and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in 2018, originally planned to invite artists from around the world to experience. The criteria for "artists" was never clearly defined, but on Tuesday, in a new promotional video for the mission, Maezawa announced that DearMoon would be opened up to practically everyone across the globe. 

"I began to think that maybe every single person who is doing something creative could be called an artist," he says in the video, which you can view below.

Maezawa outlines "two key criteria" for the civilian passengers. These seem fairly flexible, too. 

  • "Whatever activity you are into, by going to space, I hope that you can push its envelope, to help other people and greater society in some way."
  • "You have to be willing and able to support other crew members who share similar aspirations."

In total, Maezawa says 10 to 12 people will be on board for the first flight around the moon. The billionaire entrepreneur had also begun to develop a "matchmaking" TV show around finding a girlfriend he could take to the moon on the mission, but Maezawa canceled the project shortly after its announcement.

Musk makes an appearance in the video to explain the mission expects to take people "further than any human has ever gone from planet Earth" because it will fly past the moon and loop around it to head back home. 

Musk says he's "highly confident" that the Starship will have reached orbit "many, many times" before 2023 and that it will be "safe enough for human transport" by the time the mission is scheduled to launch. Musk has been prone to making these kinds of claims before and missing a deadline or too, and the Starship prototypes are yet to make a successful landing. The next prototype is scheduled to fly and land this week -- but that's a long way from getting to the moon and back. 

The selection process is yet to be clearly defined for DearMoon, but the website's schedule appears to have crew selection by July 2021. You can pre-register now and should hear more about the selection process sometime "after March 15, 2021."

We've reached out to the DearMoon team to clarify the details.  

Another SpaceX mission aims to send civilians to space very soon. Known as Inspiration4, it plans to send humans to orbit aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon, lifting off on top of a Falcon 9. It too is being bankrolled by a billionaire, Jared Isaacman, and it could fly before the end of the year. 

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