SpaceX: billionaire to be first "private passenger" on moon mission

SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced Yusaku Maezawa of Japan will be the first "private passenger" on a moon mission using the promised BFR rocket. His announcement Monday evening came just a few months shy of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8, the December 1968 mission that sent the first humans beyond low-Earth orbit and on to the moon.

Musk, chief designer of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets and the as-yet-untried BFR — Big Falcon Rocket — tweeted late last week that he would introduce the passenger and discuss the company's planned moon mission during Monday night's announcement scheduled at his Hawthorne, California, rocket factory.

It's not known whether SpaceX plans a lunar orbit mission or will instead launch the passenger on a flight to simply loop around the moon and return to Earth using a so-called "free return" trajectory.

"SpaceX has signed the world's first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle — an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space," SpaceX tweeted last Thursday night. "Find out who's flying and why on Monday, September 17."

A second tweet reminded readers that "only 24 humans have been to the Moon in history. No one has visited since the last Apollo mission in 1972."

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