Shooting for the MOON: The DearMoon Mission's Unfulfilled Odyssey

In a world entranced by space and the frontier, the bushy-tailed announcements of lunar tourism amounted not just to the beginning of a new era of lunar exploration but to a triumph of human potential. And yet, not all of our galaxy’s dreams end up soaring through the stars. This is the story of a too-ambitious mission that hoped to do more than ever before – the maiden lunar voyage of Japanese billionaire and SpaceX’s Starship – a saga of aspiration and inspiration, and one spectacular failure in the human march to the moon.

The Genesis of Galactic AMBITIONS

It was 2018 when a highly ambitious new project was announced that would help us to feel the cosmos in a visceral way. Inspired by the success of SpaceX’s ‘Moon 2’ missions, Yusaku Maezawa, the billionaire entrepreneur, together with Elon Musk, the maestro of SpaceX, announced a lunar tourism flight project: DearMoon. DearMoon was less about a beautiful sightseeing trip for Maezawa himself, and more about inviting eight artists to come along in a bid to make the move ‘one of the world’s most creative projects’. Maezawa wanted artists to experience the journey in their own unique ways, hoping to launch by 2023.

The Countdown HALTS

The earth kept orbiting, as it would. 2023 came and went without a countdown to launch. The behemoth of technology and dreams known as SpaceX’s Starship stayed on the ground, wrangling with the promises and realities of space flight, and grizzling under the heat of the test fire. With the fourth test flight failing to launch – and with no clear timeline for the DearMoon voyage – Maezawa was forced to confront a decision that balanced anticipation and reality.


Heavy-hearted, Maezawa informed DearMoon fans on the mission’s website that ‘this adventure is over’. He conveyed the message that spaceflight pioneers don’t always know how to achieve their deliverables and that human ambition in the cosmos rarely follows reliable physical calendars. Though the project’s end was disappointing, its participants shared that theirs is a team of explorers who will continue unto the stars.

Reactions and REFLECTIONS

The echoes of that announcement reached everyone, from the aerospace industry; to the people who had followed that project called DearMoon with bated breath, from planet Earth; to the select who were intended to ride aboard it. The DJ Steve Aoki and the YouTuber Tim Dodd (known as Everyday Astronaut) were among those who had signed up for the trip; and tried to shrug, and nodded when met with the news. But SpaceX’s previous, fireball-riddled fumbles had not forgotten how, in risk, there lay also value.

A Visionary's VOYAGE

Maezawa’s lust for the stars was not extinguished when Elon Musk’s Starship failed to take off. ‘It’s hard to predict whether another launch window will occur,’ he remarked on social media. ‘I do not wish to block my own path in the future, nor that of my crew, by waiting indefinitely for the readiness of a vehicle.’ Nevertheless, Maezawa’s cosmic quest has not come to an end. He will be one of the eight private citizens to visit the International Space Station in 2021. Now we are able to see that galactic endeavours can unfold one step, one rocket, at a time.

Beyond the HORIZON

With the DearMoon dream receding into the black as quickly as it arrived, what is left is a legacy. One that reminds us that, just as there is a spirit to space that can elevate us beyond our boundaries, there is the overwhelming, gritty reality of attempting to colonise the final frontier, where triumphant human achievements can be bracketed by the humbling fact of our fallibility. It is a story that continues to inspire, challenge and ignite the human imagination.

The Significance of 'MOVE'

In some ways, the word move best sums up the DearMoon story: a sense of progress, of reaching for the stars and sometimes, in the face of overwhelming obstacles, of retreat. The human journey towards the stars is made up of moves and setbacks, of getting further than we’ve ever been before, and then the need to recalibrate. As a vision of humanity’s journey into space, the DearMoon project encodes ‘move’ not just as physical movement upwards into space, but more metaphorically as a way of approaching the unknown: in every setback there is an opportunity to regroup, take stock, and move again, towards the stars that lay ahead.

Jun 03, 2024
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