End clap for dearMoon, the lunar mission financed by a Japanese billionaire and powered by SpaceX and its Starship

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A ticket to the Moon: this is what Maezawa was able to afford, long before SpaceX's super-heavy launcher stood on a launch pad, its tanks filled with propellants. His project, called dearMoon, was to take him to the vicinity of our satellite to tour it before returning. A reproduction, in some way, of the feat achieved by the participants in the Apollo program, pioneers of a short conquest that made humanity dream for decades.

Too much delay

But now, since 2018, things have changed a lot. If Starship is indeed a reality, the ship supposed to take us to Mars has still not demonstrated its ability to transport living beings, safe and sound, beyond our atmosphere before bringing them back. Maezawa's trip was potentially scheduled to take place at the end of 2023, according to a press release from the latter, but has been postponed numerous times. Among the various reasons, we can cite stricter specifications for SpaceX, the company having been tasked by NASA with taking astronauts to the Moon with its launcher as part of the Artemis program, successor to the Apollo program.

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Thus, from a deadline set for last year, dearMoon is getting closer to a launch for… the 2030s. A deadline considered excessive by the Japanese billionaire, who declares onformerly Twitter): “I cannot plan my future in this situation, and I am embarrassed to have to keep the crew members waiting longer, hence the difficult decision to give up now“. His trip to the Moon is therefore canceled, and the ten other passengers on the ship, artists, will have to content themselves with participating in the conquest of our satellite from the ground up.

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Paradigm shift

Things haven't just changed for SpaceX. Since 2018, Maezawa's fortune has grown from $3.4 billion to nearly $1.5 billion, according to Forbes. Not enough to put him on the street, but this situation could encourage the Japanese entrepreneur to review his priorities or to be more impatient. Especially since he already has a trip to space under his belt, carried out in 2021 aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

While its financial contribution to dearMoon has not been disclosed, it is very likely that it pales in comparison to the $2.9 billion in funding provided by NASA. In addition, Starship will have the task of accelerating the deployment of satellites in the Starlink constellation, which should connect the entire world to high-speed Internet. A whole program, which could bring in a lot of money for SpaceX in the years to come, the company having every interest in reviewing its priorities too.

Maezawa's project therefore takes on the air of a relic of a bygone era, during which the super-heavy launcher designed to carry humans to other stars was above all a project loaded with ambitions and computer-generated images, and only convinced a few fanciful billionaires.

Starship still has work to do, its next suborbital flight being planned for June 6, still a little far from our good old Moon.

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