Mar 2, 2021 - Science

The search is on for people to launch on a mission around the Moon

The Moon's gray surface dotted with dark patches of long-dried lava flows against the blackness of space

Photo: NASA

A Japanese billionaire is searching for eight people to join him on a trip around the Moon, and anyone can enter for their chance to win a seat.

Why it matters: If successful, this mission would mark the first time civilians — not professional astronauts — fly beyond Earth's orbit.

What's happening: The mission — backed by entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa — is due to launch in 2023 aboard SpaceX's Starship system, designed to take people and heavy payloads to orbit and beyond.

  • The mission is expected to launch 10 to 12 people on a mission around the Moon and back to Earth.
  • Maezawa is now asking anyone interested to enter for their chance to be chosen for one of eight available seats aboard the spacecraft by March 14, with medical checkups and final interviews expected in May.
  • You can get more information and sign up here.

Background: This project, called dearMoon, was first announced in 2018, with Maezawa expecting to take artists on his journey to space, but his attitude toward who should go on the mission has changed recently.

  • "I began to think, every single person who is doing something creative with their lives, aren’t they all artists?" Maezawa said in a new video.
  • "In that sense, I wanted my invitation to reach out to a broader community and give more people from around the globe the chance to join this journey. If you see yourself as an artist, then you are an artist."

But, but, but: SpaceX's Starship isn't yet ready to take anyone to the Moon.

  • The company is still in the relatively early days of test flights for its Starship prototypes, though Elon Musk said in the video that he expects the spacecraft will be ready for this mission by 2023.

The big picture: This is the third high-profile civilian-focused space mission to make news in a matter of weeks.

  • Jared Isaacman's Inspiration4, using SpaceX's Crew Dragon, is expected to become the first all-civilian mission to orbit later this year.
  • And Axiom Space is flying its own crew of three civilians and a professional commercial astronaut with SpaceX to the International Space Station early next year.
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