Who Are The People On The Crew Of SpaceX's Mission To The Moon?

If space is ever to truly become the final frontier, it has to come within the reach of those who aren't party to government-funded scientific missions or billion-dollar fortunes. To give some billionaires due credit, they are investing money into efforts to eventually make space travel more viable for the average Earthling. In 2018, it was announced that SpaceX would send a manned spacecraft to circle the moon, crewed by artists rather than scientists or technicians. The name of the mission was Dear Moon (per Scientific American).

The target year for Dear Moon is 2023. However, SpaceX founder Elon Musk cautioned during the initial announcement that it wasn't a fixed date, and as of December 2022, the company's rockets and boosters had undergone only limited testing (via CNN). Plus, the goal of having a crew full of professional artists was amended during the selection process to accept any applicants, so long as they strove to innovate in their profession, saw their work as art, and were prepared to be team players. The status of the technology for Dear Moon may still have been iffy at the end of 2022, but the selection of a crew was finalized and announced in December. Mission leader Yusaku Maezawa took to YouTube to share their names with the world.

Yusaku Maezawa

The technology may still be in the testing stage and the crew only recently selected, but the leader of the Deep Moon mission has been set since 2018: Yusaku Maezawa. One of Japan's more eccentric corporate tycoons, Maezawa might seem an odd choice to go into space at all, let alone head a mission of artists. He never finished college according to The New York Times, opting to pursue a rock star life. When that didn't pan out, he became an entrepreneur. His considerable fortune comes from his fashion retail business, Zozotown, though Maezawa resigned as its head in 2020 ahead of his astronautical enterprises (and in the wake of a significant failure with a company measurement product).

Maezawa has become as known in Japan for his publicity-chasing exploits as for his fortune and business acumen. He's not shy about throwing money around, whether it's on his art collection or the decor of his private jet. His tweets keep him visible on social media, while his many celebrity relationships have given fodder to the tabloids of traditional media. Even his move to online dating was made into a media event, as Maezawa offered rather candid admissions of loneliness and desperation.

Deep Moon won't be Maezawa's first trip into space. Per CNN, while planning for that mission was ongoing, Maezawa got a head start by traveling to the International Space Station. True to form, he had a video team with him to publicize the trip.

Steve Aoki

It's a varied group of people identifying as artists who have been chosen for the Deep Moon mission. The first person Yusaku Maezawa selected wasn't a painter or a sculptor, but a famous DJ: Steve Aoki, founder of Los Angeles's Dim Mak record label (per Submerge Magazine).

Aoki is the son of Hiroaki "Rocky" Aoki, who earned a fortune with his restaurant chain Benihana. Aoki has dabbled in the family business; as of 2008, he had set up his own restaurant in Los Angeles. Like Yusaku Maezawa, he's also done some work in fashion. But it's as a DJ and a music producer that he's been most active. Aoki has traveled the world to mix and play tracks, earning a Guinness World Record as the most-traveled musician for 2012 (per Florida Today). In describing his approach to DJing, Aoki told Submerge, "If you asked me the question, 'what's more important: skill or taste?' I'd tell you taste. If a guy's really skillful, but his tracks are just horrid, I don't care to listen to his skill."

After being selected for Deep Moon, Aoki told the mission's documentarians that he'd dreamed of going to space since childhood. His goals for the mission include DJing as the ship circles the moon and composing a song — or possibly an entire album — in space.


Anyone with a preconception of boy bands as corporate-manufactured pop singers with a shelf life shorter than unrefrigerated produce, take note: a member of such a group is on the crew for a mission around the moon. Rapper T.O.P is part of Big Bang, a South Korean group that has been performing since 2006, according to the Korea JoonAng Daily. The group turned out numerous K-Pop hits over the years, from "Lies" in 2007 to "Bang Bang Bang" in 2015.

Big Bang appeared to go on hiatus in 2018. In part, this was due to T.O.P's mandatory military service after coming of age (per Prestige). But the rapper — whose real name is Choi Seung Hyun — became embroiled in a drug scandal, and the fallout was severe enough that he contemplated suicide. When Big Bang resumed performing in 2022, T.O.P departed from the agency that represented the band. Though he remained attached to them, he was frank with Prestige that his musical tastes had shifted and that he might not have a long-term future as part of Big Bang.

When announced as a member of the Deep Moon mission, T.O.P said that his hope for the trip was to have "fresh stimulation" for his work. He has a prior association with mission leader Yusaku Maezawa: both men are art collectors.

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Yemi A.D.

When Yemi A.D. was chosen as a member of the Deep Moon crew, he was so excited that he started dancing in his living room, oblivious to Yusaku Maezawa's continued presence on his Zoom call. It was as fitting as it was understandable; Yemi A.D.'s primary line of work is as a choreographer.

Yemi is a Czech citizen, but according to his personal website, he found his first professional break in Los Angeles. He began as a professional dancer but later moved behind the scenes and founded several schools of dance. JAD Productions, which Yemi established in 2010, has provided services for numerous high-profile clients, and Yemi has personally partnered with rapper Kanye West on films and live performances. Away from choreography, he acts as a goodwill ambassador for his native country and the United Nations.

Yemi is the first person from the Czech Republic to go into space in decades. He considers himself a representative of both his native country and Africa; his father was originally from Nigeria, and dance was a way for him to break down barriers as a young man. "In the beginning of my life, I thought that dance is my only language because it was a way for me ... to cross bridges between how I looked and everybody else looked where I'm from," he told the Dear Moon crew announcement team.

Rhiannon Adam

A journey around the moon may be the farthest Rhiannon Adam has ever traveled, but she's no stranger to being on the move. Her official website describes a nomadic upbringing. Born in Ireland, Adam traveled the world with her family growing up, often by sea, and finished her education at Cambridge. Her home life is split between the U.S. and the U.K., but her work still takes her all over the place.

That work is photography. Despite the advance of the digital age, Adam still works with traditional film stocks to capture a range of subjects under broad themes like social justice or climate change. She's shot for the BBC, the Telegraph, the Guardian, Vice, Harpers Bazaar, and the Royal Geographic Society. The latter sent her to the Pitcairn Islands in 2015. A highly isolated community, Adam's documentation of the islands in the wake of sexual abuse scandals won the Meitar Award for Excellence in Photography and spawned a gallery and a book.

Adam sent in her application for the Deep Moon mission in 2020. "It was ... in the middle of the pandemic," she told the crew announcement team, "and I was craving an adventure." Her selection makes her the first Irish person in space, a claim to fame she isn't necessarily over the moon about (pun intended). "I really value my anonymity," she told the team, also speaking about her excitement for the mission.

Tim Dodd

Florida Today once described Tim Dodd of Cedar Falls, Iowa as an "Earth-bound" astronaut, the kind of enthusiast for astronomy and space exploration that wouldn't make it off the ground but could rattle off knowledge on the subject with depth and enthusiasm. It's a description Dodd has embraced; his online persona is literally titled the Everyday Astronaut. For years, he went around the world in a spacesuit, taking photographs in character as a space traveler yearning for the means to go back. Under the same title, Dodd branched out into social media, including a popular YouTube channel dedicated to explaining everything that goes into space travel for the layman — which Dodd himself is, having no background in the field. And to think it all grew out of a joke purchase of an old Russian flight suit.

If all goes according to plan, the Everyday Astronaut won't remain trapped on terra firma forever. Dodd covered the initial announcement of the Dear Moon mission and was excited by the venture. But Dodd has also covered some of the more disastrous tests of SpaceX's rockets, and when announced as a crew member, he was very frank about his apprehensions. At the same time, he expressed confidence that the technology would be in place by the time Dear Moon was ready to launch. Among his goals for the trip is a recreation of a staged photograph he did as the Everyday Astronaut: eating with the Earth in the background.

Karim Iliya

Much of Karim Iliya's work is dedicated to the Earth, and he's been all over it. His father was Lebanese, his mother was American, and per his official website, he traveled throughout Asia and the Middle East in his childhood. These days, his time is split between Iceland and Hawaii, where he earns a living as a photographer and videographer. His work has appeared in National Geographic and been featured on programs aired on BBC Earth and Netflix, among others. Most of his work concerns endangered species and ecosystems. Whales are a particular love and fascination of Iliya's. Besides documenting them, he conducts guided swims near whale pods.

But Iliya has had some fascinations beyond this world too. "For my whole life," he said when announced as a member of the Deep Moon mission crew, "I've looked up at the moon and I've thought that, while it is so far away, it is also so close." Iliya said that he was most excited about the chance to see Earth rising and setting from a lunar vantage point. "I expect that I will come back as a vastly different person," he added. "And then I can use that to help me in my mission in life to try and leave this place a little bit better than when I arrived."

Brendan Hall

As a mission of artists into space, Deep Moon was never going to lack documentation. But among its crew is genuine documentary filmmaker Brendan Hall. An aspiring director since age 12, as he told NBC's "Today" (via Yahoo! News), Hall studied at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Much of his work is dedicated to subjects in the natural world, and he's worked on behalf of everyone from National Geographic to "Bill Nye: Science Guy" (per his official website). His most recent feature-length film, "Parks for the People," had been scheduled for a summer 2023 release as of December 2022.

Hall's application to the Deep Moon mission was almost a fluke. "I just saw an article online," he told "Today." "I could have done anything different that day, like gotten a coffee, gotten a snack, and I would never have seen this opportunity ... it just seemed like this amazing thing, and I applied for it, and I just wanted to see what would happen." Photo and film cameras have rolled in outer space before, but in his official crew announcement video, Hall expressed enthusiasm to innovate on previous efforts through technique and technology.

Dev D. Joshi

It's something of a cliche that most child actors fade into obscurity as they grow, but that fate hasn't come for Dev D. Joshi. According to the Times of India, the Gujarat native began acting when he was 3. He came to fame in India for his portrayal of the title character in the fantasy series "Baalveer," and later starred as seven distinct characters in the 2019 revival "Baalveer Returns." His film work has included a turn as Swaminarayan, a prominent 18th-century yogi. In 2019, he was granted the president's medal for his cultural achievements, according to his official website. As of December 2022, he was pursuing a master's degree from the United Nations Institute of Training and Research.

In his crew announcement video, Joshi recalled childhood stories of Chandra, the Hindu god of the moon. "The chance to meet him personally, face to face, is what this project is about," he said, "and I'm really excited for it." In 2022, Joshi was just 22 years old, making him the youngest person to make it to the moon if Deep Moon launches in 2023 as scheduled. Oliver Daemen currently holds the record for the youngest person to ever make it into space; he was 18 when he flew with Jeff Bezos in July 2021 (per the BBC).

Kaitlyn Farrington

The Dear Moon mission selected nine members for its crew, with two alternates on standby. One of the alternates, Kaitlyn Farrington, may not seem the ideal candidate for a mission of artists, at least under a narrow definition of the word. She is an athlete, specifically a snowboarder who won gold at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics (per ESPN). Farrington was ambitious to continue with snowboarding as a career, but the year after her Olympic win, a comparatively minor wipeout left her unable to move. An MRI revealed that she suffered from congenital cervical stenosis, a condition where the vertebrae in an affected person's neck are too narrow, putting the spinal cord at serious risk of injury. While Farrington can still walk and even snowboard, the intense performance of competitive snowboarding was impossible for her to continue safely, and after a long struggle to accept the diagnosis, she announced her retirement in 2015.

Farrington hasn't given up on her passion. Since retiring competitively, she's embarked on what she described to the Dear Moon video team as an adventuring career. While disappointed at not being chosen for the main crew, Farrington will undergo astronaut training with the rest and expressed interest in offering an alternative perspective on the mission, being an athlete rather than an artist.


In the event that one of the chosen artists cannot take part in the Deep Moon mission, or chooses to withdraw, the two alternates will be put in. One of them is Miyu, a fellow citizen of Japan with team leader Yusaku Maezawa. Originally from Tokyo, according to her official website, Miyu has been competing as a dancer since she was 8 years old and has performed throughout Japan and the world in solo and team competitions. In 2017, she competed in the Juste Debout dance competition in Paris, winning the House division.

"Of course, I'd want to be the first dancer who went to ... space and the moon," Miyu said in her crew announcement video, "and I want to improve the social status of dancers." She expressed confidence in art's ability to reach across any sort of division between peoples through undertakings like the Deep Moon project.