Who is Yusaku Maezawa, the Japanese billionaire taking Elon Musk's SpaceX rocket around the moon?

The billionaire is known for more than his new venture into space. Credit: AP

Yusaku Maezawa has announced he will be blasting off on a trip around the moon as the first private passenger on SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket.

However, the billionaire will not be travelling alone on Elon Musk's rocket - he said he will invite six to eight artists on his voyage, which is planned for 2023.

But who is the Japanese billionaire?

  • How much is he worth?

Mr Maezawa has a net worth of around $2.7 billion and comes in at number 18 on Forbes 50 richest people in Japan.

  • How did he make his money?

The entrepreneur became fast friends with SpaceX founder Elon Musk as both share a love of business.

The 42-year-old made his money from online website Zozotown - which is now Japan's largest online fashion marketplace and available in more than 72 countries.

The business branched from his first venture and parent company Start Today, which sold imported CDs and albums through a mail order-service.

The billionaire has kept ahead of the trends by expanding his business Zozotown from selling second-hand clothing to his app Wear, which has around 10 million members.

Earlier this year he launched basics range Zozo and had a massive giveaway which saw 100,000 people taking home items from the range.

Last year he announced the launch of Zozosuit, intended as a way to eliminate sizing issues with the introduction of custom clothes after his own struggles to find trousers that fit his height.

  • How else might I have heard of him?

Before he launched his business in 1998, he was a drummer in a punk-rock band called Switch Style but retired a few years after their first major album.

In 2017 he broke records when he paid a staggering $110 million (£84m) for a skull painting by Basquiat, almost double the asking price.

It was the record price for an American artist at auction - and Mr Maezawa did all the bidding on his iPhone.

  • So he isn't shy about flashing his cash?

Seemingly not.

The entrepreneur is an avid art collector and the Basquiat was just one of the pricey art pieces he owns, with works from Pablo Picasso to Roy Lichtenstein part of his collection.

Mr Maezawa also owns a Bugatti Chiron and a Mercedes-Maybach G650 Landaulet SUV.

And last month he tweeted about his new private jet, which has an interior by luxury fashion brand Hermes.

As for his trip to the moon, that's costing a "much higher" sum than the Basquiat, according to Mr Musk.

  • And what's this about him taking artists into space?

The billionaire says he will invite six to eight artists on his voyage.

On the project's website, #dearMoon, Mr Maezawa revealed he wanted to inspire artists to create new work.

"If Pablo Picasso had been able to see the moon up-close, what kind of paintings would he have drawn?" he said.

"If John Lennon could have seen the curvature of the Earth, what kind of songs would he have written?

"If they had gone to space, how would the world have looked today?"

Mr Maezawa said he wants his guests for the lunar orbit “to see the moon up close, and the Earth in full view, and create work to reflect their experience”.

He added: “I wish to create amazing works of art for humankind."