Japanese billionaire cancels SpaceX Starship flight around Moon, dashing dreams for selected crew

Yusakku Maezawa said on X that he was under contract with SpaceX to fly by the end of 2023. With the deadline missed, he opted to call off the trip for everyone.

The hopes of eight artists and creators to orbit the Moon in a SpaceX Starship ended this week after the Japanese billionaire who selected them to fly on the private lunar mission canceled the flight.

In 2018, fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa purchased a flight on SpaceX's reusable spaceship, which is still under development. He said he would take eight other people with him on the trip around the Moon. In 2022, the dearMoon project announced that the eight crew members would include DJ Steve Aoki, YouTuber Tim Dodd, and K-pop star TOP.

A statement was posted to the dearMoon website over the weekend announcing the mission cancellation. 

Maezawa said on X that he was contracted with SpaceX to fly by the end of 2023. With the deadline missed, he opted to call off the trip for everyone. 

"I signed the contract in 2018 based on the assumption that dearMoon would launch by the end of 2023. It’s a developmental project so it is what it is, but it is still uncertain as to when Starship can launch," Maezawa said on X. "I can’t plan my future in this situation, and I feel terrible making the crew members wait longer, hence the difficult decision to cancel at this point in time. I apologize to those who were excited for this project to happen."

After the dearMoon announcement, the crew reacted to the news on social media.


Photographer and artist Rhiannon Adam was among the dearMoon crew and would have been the first Irish person to fly in space. 

Adam wrote a lengthy response on X, saying she did not blame SpaceX's developmental delays and believes the company "will get there with Starship, and it may be a wait, but it's coming and I have every faith in that."

SpaceX is planning the fourth test flight of Starship and the Super Heavy booster from Texas this summer.

"It’s a missed opportunity to do something bigger. What dearMoon represented was bigger than an individual. And with that came responsibility that has now been dropped. We need to do better. An individual ended it for individual reasons," Adam wrote. 

Dodd, a YouTuber known as the Everyday Astronaut who creates content about SpaceX and the spaceflight industry, said the timeline and possible cancelation were never made clear to the crew.

"Had I known this could have ended within a year and a half of it being publicly announced, I would’ve never agreed to it," Dodd wrote. "We had no prior knowledge of this possibility. I voiced my opinions, even before the announcement, that it was improbable for dearMoon to happen in the next few years."

While Maezawa called off plans to orbit the Moon, he has already experienced life in low-Earth orbit.

In 2021, Maezawa spent two weeks on the International Space Station after purchasing a seat through Space Adventures, a company that arranges spaceflights through the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos. 

NASA awaits Starship for Artemis Moon landing 

SpaceX has other customers waiting on Starship for human spaceflight missions.

NASA's Artemis program depends on Starship development after the agency selected the vehicle to land astronauts on the Moon for the first time since the Apollo program. 


U.S. businessman Jared Isaacman has also purchased a trip on Starship as part of a series of private spaceflights known as the Polaris program. The final flight for Polaris will be the first human spaceflight of Starship. 

During the most recent test flight in March, Starship reached orbit and completed a fuel transfer test before the vehicle was lost on re-entry.