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The awaited tourist voyage around the Moon that funded Musk's Starship was just canceled

Primary and backup crew of the proposed dearMoon mission

In 2016, the world’s biggest space rocket, today known as Starship, was just a distant dream of the company’s founder Elon Musk. However, just two years after presenting the idea, an intriguing space mission dearMoon was announced.

The planned mission was funded by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. In fact, he was not funding just his trip around the Moon, but also the development of the space rocket itself.

However, six years later, it was announced that the mission is not happening:

"The plan had included artists from around the world who would participate in the project to share the invaluable experience in space with the rest of the world. Arrangements were being made with SpaceX to target the launch by the end of 2023.

"Unfortunately, however, launch within 2023 became unfeasible, and without clear schedule certainty in the near-term, it is with a heavy heart that Maezawa made the unavoidable decision to cancel the project."

Apart from Maezawa himself, the crew of dearMoon consisted of eight more members – artists and creatives like music producer Steve Aoki or spaceflight enthusiast Tim Dodd known as Everyday Astronaut.

Despite the bad news, Maezawa expressed gratitude towards SpaceX: “We will hold deep respect for SpaceX as they continue to venture into uncharted territories, while we ourselves will move on to the next challenge.”

It is unknown how much of an impact Maezawa’s funding had on Starship. However, at the time of the announcement in 2018, Elon Musk said the funding had “a material effect” and praised Maezawa for “being legit”, adding that the Japanese billionaire put his money where his mouth is.

As of now, it is also unknown whether Maezawa will get his money back.

Meanwhile, the Starship is already flying test missions and is gearing up its fourth near-orbital flight which might occur as soon as next week. SpaceX needs to progress fast because a custom variant of Starship will be used as a Moon lander for NASA’s program Artemis.

Speaking about space tourism alone, there aren’t many alternatives to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 (orbital flights and missions to ISS) and the prospect of Starship. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic conducted just a single flight in 2024 and the same can be said about Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin which resumed crewed flights in May; however, one of its parachutes failed, raising the possibility of further delays.

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