Dear Diary, the dearMoon Mission Just Canceled on Me

Orbiting the moon remains a distant dream for a crew that thought they were only years away from achieving the impossible.

Not all dreams come to fruition and learning that the dearMoon mission has been canceled has broken a lot of hearts. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who had spearheaded the SpaceX mission, recently announced that the space trip was no longer going to take place. The SpaceX moon trip cancellation announcement post was dropped most unexpectedly, briefly hinting at the reason behind this drastic decision. Unsurprisingly, it has a little something to do with the project launch timeline having breezed by with no end in sight.

The dearMoon crew’s reactions to the incident are painful to see, providing a stark contrast to their initial joyful announcements about the mission. Now we’re left with an emotional mix of acceptance of the outcome and anger at having been provided a monumental opportunity only to have it yanked away without being asked.

Image: Yusaku Maezawa

The dearMoon Mission is Canceled Six Years After Inception

Maezawa’s SpaceX mission was first formalized in 2018 when the billionaire purchased all the seats on a SpaceX rocket that was set to take civilians to the moon. The plan was for the spaceship to spend a week traveling to the moon and back, giving space tourism a shot and expanding the perspectives of the crew on board. The lunar orbital mission was set to happen on SpaceX’s Starship and the flight plan had been announced as well —one of the only features that was determined in advance.

In 2021, Yusaku Maezawa announced his plan to take eight creatives to the moon with him, selecting from among 1 million applicants from 249 countries. The final team was announced in 2022, with two backup crew members enlisted in case a spot opened up on the project for one reason or another. Since then, the crew was supposed to work on training and preparations for the journey, although we have no details on what that involved and how it has been proceeding since.

The Maezawa SpaceX mission was an in-progress, conceptual one, with the rocket still under construction, and no fixed date was set for when the trip would take place. An approximate launch timeline was provided for the end of 2023, and the hope was that we’d get more updates as we moved closer to the end Unfortunately, we’re halfway through 2024 and there are still no concrete updates on where the dearMoon mission stands.

Under such circumstances, the cancellation of the SpaceX moon trip appears almost inevitable. The reason we say “almost” is that while we understand why the billionaire canceled the SpaceX trip, the decision feels rushed when there was no fixed timeline set to begin with nor any urgency to make it happen. From the dearMoon crew’s reactions, it’s clear some of them also believe that the decision was taken too quickly.

Image: Choi Seung Hyun (TOP from BIGBANG), one of the crew members impacted by the SpaceX moon trip’s cancellation

Meet the dearMoon Crew

A mission to orbit the moon is a marvel by itself, but the inclusion of the eight-member crew was what made the project so special. The aim was to gather a collection of creative professionals who would bring different perspectives to the journey and take something back to their individual fields on their return. The team included:

  • DJ and producer Steve Aoki
  • Rapper and actor Choi Seung Hyun aka TOP (member of BIGBANG)
  • Multidisciplinary creative Yemi A.D
  • Photographic artist Rihannon Adam
  • “Everyday Astronaut” YouTuber Tim Dodd
  • Nature advocate and photographer Karim Iliya
  • Documentary filmmaker Brendan Hall
  • Actor Dev D. Joshi

The backup crew included snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington and entrepreneur and professional dancer, Miyu. The dearMoon crew reactions and statements are what hit the hardest following this news.

The dearMoon Crew Reaction to the SpaceX Moon Trip Cancellation

The dearMoon mission was canceled by Maezawa, who had invested his money into the project and selected the crew that was to accompany him into space. As the one who had purchased the seats, he held the power to decide what happened with the mission and whether anyone else could go on the journey or not. Now we don’t know all the details that went into making the decision and just how far behind SpaceX is on the project, so it’s unfair to criticize the decision that was made—sometimes it is better to cut your losses early rather than drag things out because of the sunk cost fallacy. Apart from the lack of reliable progress he also indicated that the uncertainty about the mission was making it difficult for him to plan his future, which implied he had other investments that are being held up by this project. These reasons are fair enough for him to back out but his decision affects more than just himself.

From the reaction of the crew, it’s clear that they were most excited about this first-of-its-kind project. Some of them admitted they would have been willing to wait no matter how long the project took to come to life. The dearMoon crew’s reactions are immersed in disappointment at the sudden end of an innocent dream. They were closer to traveling to space than the rest of us may ever be, which is a monumental detail by itself.

“Our crew, from the many conversations we’ve had together, were ready to wait as long as it took for this flight to happen. It was hard to stay patient and keep our lives on hold but we were tough. As many of us know, shifting timelines are the inherent nature of spaceflight. Every day the space industry is achieving a milestone that at one time was thought to be impossible. Through these years, our crew has stayed well informed of Starship’s development through publicly available information and discourse and were well aware that we would potentially be investing many years into this mission. The cancellation of this mission was sudden, brief, and unexpected.”

—Filmmaker and member of the dearMoon crew, Brendan Hall

Image: SpaceX suits

Should the dearMoon mission have been canceled?

The SpaceX moon trip cancellation has generated a lot of conversation and most of it leans towards dismay at the sudden cancellation of the trip. X/Twitter users contend that the timelines of Maezawa’s SpaceX mission were open-ended and ambitious from the start and he should have had more flexible expectations for when it would be complete. Space missions take time and when the project was decided, SpaceX had no ships ready that could have handled the flight, so years of work on development were to be expected. Some have even blamed Elon Musk for the outcome, but his involvement in the decision remains unclear.

Rushing these kinds of projects is never a good idea and it’s better SpaceX takes it time to create a rocket that can actually complete the journey and return the crew home. The abrupt end to Titanic’s maiden voyage and the subsequent collapse of the submarine that was designed to allow tourists to explore the wreckage is exactly why these projects need to be perfect before they are ever opened to the public, and such quality takes time—years and years of it.

News that the dearMoon mission was canceled came just days before SpaceX completed its test flight of the Starship rocket for the first time this week. The booster splashed down successfully and the Starship survived reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, splashing down in the Indian Ocean. Notably, the ship did not have a crew onboard and according to CNBC“SpaceX expects to fly hundreds of Starship missions before the rocket launches with any crew.” Maezawa’s SpaceX mission is years—perhaps at least a decade—away from completion, so for now, the dearMoon mission has been canceled. In the years to come, there will be others that succeed where this plan failed.



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