Who Is In The 9-Person SpaceX dearMoon Crew?

Over 50 years after Apollo 17 achieved the last moon landing, Elon Musk's SpaceX has announced that it's sending a manned crew back to the moon in 2023. The crew won't be landing on the lunar surface, but rather orbiting the moon and then heading back to Earth in a mission that will take around a week to complete. This mission has been a long time in the making: a Japanese entrepreneur first purchased all the seats on the "dearMoon" flight back in 2018, and SpaceX conducted its first rocket launch as far back as 2006 (via Britannica).

Musk had a very busy 2022, with his tumultuous takeover of social media platform Twitter and his record-breaking personal wealth loss thanks to Tesla's tanking share price. The dearMoon project has ensured that things aren't letting up in 2023, as the world watches to see if the tech billionaire can mastermind the safe transport and return of nine specially-selected creatives into space and back again. The dearMoon crew is diverse and features members from across the globe, some of whom have an existing following, and some who have, until now, remained under the radar.

Yusaku Maezawa

Japanese fashion entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, also known as MZ, is the man responsible for assembling the dearMoon crew, and according to the Japan Times, hand-picked each member from "a million" applications. He amassed his fortune by founding Japan's biggest online fashion retailer, Zozo, which he sold to the investment group SoftBank in 2019. The SpaceX mission won't be his first time leaving Earth, as he became the first space tourist to visit the International Space Station in 2021, staying a total of 12 days.

In an interview published by the Japan Times, Maezawa said that "When you go into space, you become obsessed with the Earth [...] you're grateful that it has wind, that it has smells, that it has seasons." He also envisioned world leaders conducting meetings up in space one day, saying "if it [happened], the world might be a better place to live." While Maezawa hasn't convinced any global politicians to join him above Earth, he claimed on the dearMoon mission website that he's excited about what his team of creatives can achieve while they're making the journey around the moon and back. With musicians, photographers, filmmakers, and actors all on board, there should be plenty of new content from the team for the rest of us on the ground to enjoy.

Steve Aoki

DJ, producer and Web3 enthusiast Steve Aoki was reportedly the first candidate that MZ selected for the dearMoon mission, with Aoki finding out the news while on tour in Russia. As well as making music under his own moniker, Aoki owns the Dim Mak record label, which has been responsible for launching the careers of the likes of The Chainsmokers and Bloc Party. He's used to spending a lot of time in transit, and even won a Guinness World Record for the most well-traveled musician in a year in 2012, playing 168 shows in 41 different countries (via Business Insider).

Despite his hedonistic image and notoriety for throwing champagne and cake at audience members during his performances, Aoki is very much a fitness fanatic, according to Business Insider. He's known to cram in last-minute workouts just before going on stage and always makes sure to have a yoga mat handy, even when he's using his private jet to fly between multiple gigs in a day. His motto is, "I'll sleep when I'm dead," and he's even got a tattoo of the phrase in case he needs an extra reminder. By the sound of it, spending a week in space might be the least stressful thing that Aoki's done in years.

T.O.P (Choi Seung Hyun)

As a member of the popular K-pop band Big Bang, T.O.P (born Choi Seung Hyun) became one of the genre's best-known faces before parting ways with the group in 2022 to focus on his solo material (via NME). The musician reportedly felt like he was getting "too old" to maintain his K-pop idol status, so decided to branch out into other ventures, including acting in both films and K-dramas and launching his own wine brand, T'SPOT. He's also a keen art collector and collaborated with Sotheby's in 2016 to curate an art auction in Hong Kong.

On the dearMoon mission's website, T.O.P states he wants "to inspire the world, give people hope, and make anyone with a dream feel that anything is possible." While fellow crew member Steve Aoki explicitly said he'll be looking to create songs while he's in orbit, T.O.P. has been more cryptic about his expected creative output, only saying that he hopes to return to Earth as "an artist with inspiration."

Yemi A.D.

A dancer and choreographer hailing from the Czech Republic, Yemi A.D. was born to Czech and Nigerian parents. In an interview, he claimed he first turned to dance as a way to "cross bridges between how [he] looked and how everybody else looked," calling it his "only language." Since then, he's risen to the top of the industry and directed campaigns for the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Apple, and Google. He's always remained keen to give back to disadvantaged children where possible, working on projects in Nigeria, Indonesia, and India. As a result of his work, he was appointed as an official Goodwill Ambassador by the Czech government in 2019.

Yemi has admitted that he's more than a little scared about the risky nature of spaceflight, saying that the moment when he's looking up at the rocket before boarding will be the hardest to conquer. Even so, he says the lingering urge to explore that he felt as a child is still a stronger force than the cautious "adult" voice telling him to be worried, so he's looking forward to the mission more than fearing it.

Rhiannon Adam

Irish-born Rhiannon Adam had an unusual upbringing, as her parents moved onto a boat when she was young and she spent most of her childhood living nomadically around the Caribbean and South America. After entering mainstream education as a teenager and subsequently graduating from the University of Cambridge, Adam carved out a career as a photographer, with a focus on documenting remote communities using analog technology. In particular, she says she's interested in exploring the line between fact and fiction, and utopia and dystopia.

Adam's work has seen her nominated for various prestigious photography awards and published in the likes of The New York Times, The Telegraph, and the BBC. Rather than fearing the trip itself, Adam says her biggest fear comes from the lifestyle change associated with being on such a high-profile crew. She says she prefers to be anonymous, remaining behind the camera, but being a part of dearMoon will change that, although to what extent she can't be sure yet.

Tim Dodd

Tim Dodd began his career as a professional photographer, and as part of a project, bought an old space suit, which he used to depict himself in various light-hearted situations. Calling it "Everyday Astronaut," the project quickly picked up traction, and in 2017, he founded a YouTube channel with the same name dedicated to teaching viewers about rocket science. At the time of writing, the channel has over 1.3 million subscribers, but those numbers are sure to get a boost when viewers see what Dodd has planned for his trip around the moon.

He's not revealed his exact content plans yet, but said in an interview that he plans to document his time in space and film videos that will help "explain things to the general public." Doing practical demonstrations for a channel about space gets a lot easier if you're actually in space, so hopefully, Dodd makes the most of his time up there and comes back with a ton of informative videos. The YouTuber does have his concerns, however — he describes in the interview how he's witnessed several of SpaceX's previous failed launches firsthand, saying he's "very familiar with the risks." He's quick to point out that in the past few years, SpaceX has made considerable progress with its rocket reliability, saying "by the time this mission happens, [they] will have iterated and improved the design to be reliable in a way that I don't think has been possible [so far]."

Karim Iliya

British-born Karim Iliya wears many hats, working primarily as a photographer, but also as a filmmaker and a whale swimming guide. His photography work has included capturing intimate closeups of whales in their natural habitat, volcanoes mid-eruption, and communities that thrive in the most remote corners of the Earth. He says that, since his work often involves going to places that most people don't ever get to experience firsthand, he feels "a huge obligation [...] to document this [dearMoon] trip in the best possible way."

He doesn't doubt the pressure that comes with being selected for the mission, saying "it's such an honor to go up into space and to be able to share that with the world." He plans to document as much of the trip as possible through photography and expects that the experience will change him as a person, although like Rhiannon Adam, he doesn't know exactly how yet.

Brendan Hall

Filmmaker Brendan Hall cut his teeth as a documentary filmmaker for the National Geographic channel but has since branched out on his own to direct projects for the likes of Adobe and Google. He says he aims to capture the way that "people connect with nature, " while "[being] there for moments that are transforming them." Like the other photographers and filmmakers on the crew, he aims to document dearMoon through his own lens, providing everyone back home with an insight into the realities of space travel.

Hall says that he's always tried to push himself outside his comfort zone and do things that scare him, and the SpaceX mission is no different. While acknowledging that the trip is risky, Hall says his main focus is making the most of being selected for such a unique experience. He aims to come back from dearMoon as "a better steward and better caretaker of the planet," and hopes that by sharing his experience, he can inspire others to do the same.

Dev D. Joshi

When asked to sum up his feelings about being picked for the SpaceX mission, Indian actor Dev D. Joshi joked that he was "over the moon" about it. His acting career began at just four years old, and at 22, he's the youngest member of the crew. Joshi is best known for portraying the character Bal Veer in the popular TV series of the same name, reports Masala, but he's also racked up acting credits in 20 Gujarati movies and runs a non-profit organization for underprivileged children.

His work saw him awarded Bal Shakti Puraskar, the highest civilian award for under-18s, by the President of India a few years ago. He says the dearMoon mission marks an important moment for the creative industry as a whole, as the idea of bringing artists to space could open the door for films, shows, and documentaries to be shot in orbit in the future.

Backup crew members

If any of the selected crew members are unable to go for any reason, two backup crew members have been put on standby to take their place. They are Kaitlyn Farringdon, an American snowboarder who won a Gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, and Miyu, an award-winning Japanese dancer. Farrington was diagnosed with congenital cervical stenosis just a few months after her Sochi win, forcing her to give up competitive snowboarding, but she prides herself on her reinvention as a backcountry snowboarder.

Miyu, meanwhile, has branched out into modeling and choreography in recent years, and claims her personal motto is "make the impossible possible." At present, neither of the backup crew members has a seat on the flight, but nonetheless, both say that they're honored to be part of the team. No concrete date has been announced for the dearMoon flight yet, with only a tentative window of sometime in 2023 confirmed so far. Musk has also remained unusually quiet on the progress of the project, but at least if he abides by the results of his own Twitter poll, he should have a bit more time to dedicate to SpaceX from now on.