Japanese billionaire Maezawa picks TOP K-pop star DJ Steve Aoki to join SpaceX moon trip

TOKYO, Dec 9 (Reuters) – Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa revealed on Friday that K-pop star TOP and DJ Steve Aoki will be among the eight crew members he plans to take on a trip around the moon as soon as what next year ride on one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets.

Maezawa bought every seat on the first lunar trip, which has been in the works since 2018 and will follow his trip on a Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) for 12 days last year.

The election was announced by Maezawa on Twitter and on a website for what he called the #dearMoon Project.

The fashion mogul and his crew were set to become the first passengers on SpaceX’s moon flight as commercial firms including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin ushered in a new era of space travel for wealthy customers.

The mission aboard SpaceX’s Starship vehicle is scheduled to last eight days from launch to return to Earth, including three days around the Moon, reaching within 200 kilometers of the lunar surface. Although the flight was scheduled for 2023, it is facing delays due to ongoing tests of the spacecraft and its rockets.

Like fellow billionaire Musk, Maezawa has a drive for promotion and a passion for Twitter — he boasted that he held the Guinness World Record for the most retweeted post when he offered a cash prize of ¥1 million ($7,300) to the 100 winners for retweeting it.

Maezawa used the microblogging site to recruit eight crew members from around the world to join him on the trip to the moon, saying 1 million people applied.

TOP, the stage name of Choi Seung Hyun, who broke out with K-pop group Big Bang, is among the higher-profile members selected, along with Aoki, a Japanese-American musician and DJ whose father founded the chain of Benihana restaurants.

“I feel great pride and responsibility to become the first Korean civilian to walk on the moon,” TOP said in a video posted after the announcement.

Indian actor Dev Joshi was also among the choices for the group, made up mostly of artists and photographers. American Olympic snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington and Japanese dancer Miyu were named as backup crew members.

Maezawa, 47, signaled an update on the lunar expedition on Monday, tweeting that he had an online meeting with Musk and was preparing a “big space announcement.”

Maezawa made his fortune founding online fashion retailer Zozo Inc ( 3092.T ), in which Softbank Group Corp’s ( 9984.T ) internet business is now the main shareholder.

(1 USD = 136.7600 yen)

Report by Rocky Swift; Edited by Leslie Adler and Sandra Maler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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