Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa signed with SpaceX to fly around the moon on the company’s next-generation rocket, CEO Elon Musk announced last week.

The 42-year-old Maezawa is the founder of Zozotown, Japan’s largest clothing marketplace that has operations in more than 72 countries and did $76 billion in sales last fiscal year.

The mission — which will orbit around, but not land on, the moon — could be ready to launch in just five years, Musk said.

Maezawa wants to take artists with him to turn the entire ride into an art project called #dearMoon. A website for the mission went live after the announcement.

“Finally, I can tell you that I choose to go to the Moon! I choose to go to the moon with artists!”

“These artists will be asked to create something after they return to Earth, and these masterpieces will inspire the dreamer within all of us,” said Maezawa.

“What if Picasso had gone to the Moon? Or Andy Warhol or Michael Jackson or John Lennon?” he asked at the event. “What about Coco Chanel? These are all artists that I adore.”

– Maezawa said at the company’s headquarters and rocket factory on the outskirts of Los Angeles after a highly anticipated introduction by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

Musk said that Maezawa actually came to SpaceX with the idea to do this flight. Declining to reveal to say how much he paid for the flight, but the trip will be free for the artists who go with him. Musk also noted that the down payment Maezawa made was significant enough that it will “have a material effect on paying for cost and development of BFR.”

“It makes a difference,”
“He puts his money where his mouth is. He’s legit.”

– Musk said. Musk also estimated that the development cost for BFR will be roughly $5 billion. Mr. Musk said BFR was still a small project at SpaceX — less than 5 percent of the work, he estimated — but was one that would grow in the coming years.

When asked whether a trip around the moon was the most beneficial way to spend his fortune, Mr. Maezawa acknowledged the philanthropic efforts of other entrepreneurs, but said, through a translator, “I want to contribute to society in a different way.”