Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is planning to hand out cash from space – Screen Shot
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Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is planning to hand out cash from space

“Japanese billionaire giving away $9 million to Twitter followers to see if money impacts happiness,” was a bizarre headline that graced January 2020. At the time, Yusaku Maezawa, founder of the online clothing retailer ZOZO, Inc., announced that the giveaway was open to anyone with a Twitter account over the age of 13—provided they were residents of Japan. All they had to do was retweet one of his posts to enter and wait for a Twitter DM from the magnate himself. If they were lucky enough, they could be one among the 1,000 randomly-selected followers to receive approximately $9,000 each.

However, this was not the first time Maezawa has sent the internet reeling. In January 2019—New Year’s really seems to rub off on him—he broke a record for having the most retweets on Twitter the day he pledged to hand out $925,000 to 100 randomly-selected users. Now, the 46 year-old is planning to do the same while orbiting our home planet.

Blasting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz spacecraft earlier today, Maezawa is currently on a 12-day trip to the International Space Station (ISS)—making him both the first space tourist to go to the ISS in more than 10 years and the first Japanese private citizen in space since TV journalist Toyohiro Akiyama. “I’m excited. I feel like an elementary school student about to go on an outing,” Maezawa said at a news conference. Accompanied by video producer Yozo Hirano, who is set to document the journey for the billionaire’s YouTube channel, and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, the spaceflight is a prelude to Maezawa’s much-publicised trip to the moon in 2023 with Elon Musk’ SpaceX.

Training at a space centre outside Moscow, Maezawa has been chronicling his preparations for months—including demonstrations of a centrifuge and his space suit. The billionaire has also been recruiting fellow space tourists for the 2023 lunar trip using his strong social media presence. Heck, he even invited women over the age of 20 to apply for a “match-making event” in 2020 just so that he could find a female “life partner” to accompany him to the moon and beyond. Oh, to be a single billionaire in space.

Backed with a tendency to overshare his life in tweets, Maezawa—who returns back to Earth on December 20—has announced a giveaway from space. “All money gifts from space,” he tweeted. “The amount of money per person is not uniform for all. It is decided by lottery from several amount patterns… ” Though the entrepreneur did not specify the exact amount he’d be handing out, Bloomberg reported how winners of his giveaway usually receive them via bank transfers. “This time, instead of a lottery, Maezawa has promised that everyone who participates in the handout will win and receive some amount,” the publication noted. While the medium of distribution remains to be released, eager recipients seem to have already jumped on the Twitter thread by announcing how they’ll be utilising the funds from the giveaway.

Listed as Japan’s 30th richest man, with an estimated personal wealth of $1.9 billion (£1.43 billion), Maezawa is well-known for his eclectic background. Skipping college, he joined a punk rock band as a drummer—later establishing a company called Start Today in 1998 to sell rare CDs and records. It was in 2004 that he pivoted to ZOZOTOWN and became a billionaire in his mid-30s. Fifteen years later, however, the mogul resigned from management and sold the fashion marketplace to Softbank.

Nevertheless, Maezawa is now one of Japan’s most flamboyant entrepreneurs, with a penchant for dating celebrities and embarking on shopping sprees—all in a country known for its conformist corporate culture. “He began to attract attention in 2016 when he bought a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting for $57.3 million, and another for $110.5 million the following year,” Bloomberg added. His current trip is estimated to cost more than $88 million as part of NASA’s plans to open up the ISS to business opportunities and eventually replace the station with a commercial clone by 2030.

SpaceX is launching its first ever advertising billboard into orbit

Billboards have been gobbling up city horizons forever. With brands increasingly running out of physical spaces, many have switched to virtual billboards with in-game advertising. But what if they could just be shuttled into the next best ‘real estate’ instead? Following astronauts and billionaires to space is now advertising—that can soon be purchased with cryptocurrencies including Dogecoin.

Teaming up with Geometric Energy Corporation (GEC), a Canadian research and development firm, SpaceX is building a satellite called the CubeSat—a small modularised orbiter used for space research. One side of the satellite will feature a pixelated screen where advertisements, logos and art will be displayed.

The CubeSat will hitch a ride aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which will release it into orbit before reaching the moon. Once in orbit, a selfie-stick attached to the side of the CubeSat will film the entire display screen. This footage will then be livestreamed on YouTube or Twitch so that anyone back home can tune in to watch the satellite’s screen. The CubeSat is currently slated for an early 2022 release.

“Anyone can advertise on the CubeSat”

If you are someone who wants to advertise on the satellite, you will have to buy tokens to claim, locate and design a pixel on its display screen. There are five tokens in total to choose from: Beta for the X coordinate, Rhoe for the Y coordinate, Gamma for the brightness, Kappa for the colour and XI for the amount of time. With the Beta and Rhoe tokens, you can decide where to place your pixel. The Gamma and Kappa tokens allow you to control what your pixel will look like, while the XI token will determine how long it will last for.

In an interview with Business Insider, Samuel Reid, CEO and co-founder of GEC, explained how businesses, advertisers, artists, and “anyone else who is interested” will be able to put their illustrations on the CubeSat’s display screen.

“There might be companies which want to depict their logo…or it might end up being a bit more personal and artistic,” Reid said. “Maybe Coca-Cola and Pepsi will fight over their logo and reclaim over each other.” Reid imagines the CubeSat display screen to look similar to artboards such as Reddit Place and Satoshi’s Place. Think of a Bitmoji Paint canvas, but up in the sky.

The CEO also mentioned how people will be able to buy the tokens with cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum. In the future, the Canadian startup also plans on introducing Dogecoin payments. Although Reid couldn’t reveal how much each token or CubeSat would cost, he added how the company is trying to achieve something “that can democratise access to space and allow for decentralised participation.”

“Hopefully, people don’t waste money on something inappropriate, insulting or offensive,” he added. Hate to break it to you Mister Reid, but this is the internet-influenced age of humanity that we’re talking about. The same that once drew a dick-pic in the Suez Canal and wrote erotic fanfiction immediately after.

Talking about the internet, folks over on Twitter seem less than impressed with the ‘ground-breaking venture’. “Not even the stars and galaxies we all gaze at will be safe from the dark maw of capitalism,” wrote a user. “Life is not-so-slowly turning into an episode of Futurama,” fumed another. The move has instead been labelled an “abomination” on the platform, “brought to you by SpaceX and the childhood interests of its billionaire leader.”

This isn’t the first joint venture between SpaceX and GEC. In May 2021, GEC paid SpaceX (entirely in dogecoin) to secure a spot for its satellite aboard an upcoming lunar mission. “In short: dogecoin is literally going to the moon,” Gizmondo noted. The mission, called Doge-1, is also scheduled to take off in early 2022.

With this latest venture, SpaceX is undoubtedly targeting the final frontier advertising has to offer. So even if you plan on becoming “a supervillain who destroys space billboards specifically,” the next step in our march towards cyberpunk dystopia is already underway. After all, what’s space tourism without billboards to enrich the view?