Draft Chapter one:

Blast off!

“50 seconds,” Ground control to Starship, “Go for launch”.

“Roger,” Sarah, the Starship astronaut responds. “Thirty seconds and counting. Astronaut Artists report feeling good.” At T -15 seconds, Sarah reports, “Guidance is internal.” Then,” Ignition sequence starts”

“How did I get here?” Kyle wondered. Strapped into a seat with four other equally nervous newly trained astronauts, a uniquely trained Astronaut, and a billionaire. “How did I get here?”

Suddenly, time speeds up for the astronaut and crew.

“T- 5, 4,3, 2, 1, 0” Ground control announces. “All engines running. Lift off. We have liftoff.”

The beast has been inhaling and exhaling -  for the last three hours.  Now the beast has woken up and is upset.

"Tower cleared” Matt, the capsule communicator states to the crew and the world.

From ground control, through their ear buds, the crew hears “Maximum Throttle down”

Sarah tells ground control Starships speed "“262 m/ second “ 

One of the artists yells “WOOHOO!”

“30 minutes past the hour.” Ground control confirms the time of launch. “Liftoff of Starship.”

”Stage 1 pulsation is nominal” Sarah, the astronauts tells ground control the status of the Starship.

Upset is an understatement. Everything is shaking so violently that Kyle cannot focus on the tablet strapped to his knee.  Kyle had often wondered what it would feel to be in a rocket filled with of 1200 metric tons of  fuel (super cooled Liquid methane and oxygen), then lit it on fire. Kyle shaking not only because of the violet shaking but also because of his nerves “How can this  lift us off the surface of the Earth and carry us to the moon?”, Kyle wonders.

The sound is loudest  Kyle has ever heard - even with ear protection. He had attended three Shuttle launches when NASA  was still sending them into space. He enjoyed watching the Shuttle fire into space and then hearing the sonic boom minutes later.  This experience was something different…

“Breathe, remember to breathe deeply” He thought.

The sound is deafening.  He can’t see anything clearly. Everything is alive and shaking.  Sophia, who is one of the fellow crew,  is screaming so loud and crying at the same time.

 “Starship is super sonic” With extreme force, everyone in the cabin is pushed forward and then back.

 Each artist's heart rate and breathing are monitored by the flight surgeon at the command center in Brownsville, Texas.  As they trained in the centrifuge, each artist experienced, several times,  the acceleration profile similar to the proposed flight for medical screening -- so that each crew member would be familiar and know what to expect during ascent, but Kyle had to admit – that nothing in his training prepared him for launch. Not the simulations, studying, reading, training, not the videos, or the interviews with previous astronauts. This is the wildest ride that Kyle has been on.   The most dangerous 10 minutes of the entire journey – of his entire life.

Nothing has prepared him for this moment. 

“Please, just let us survive. I need to survive this!” Kyle begs.

The captain of the ship, the only professional astronaut aboard – Sarah is in constant contact with mission control. Kyle was wondering what she was thinking of this journey. Sarah, a space veteran, former fighter pilot for the US Military had been to space four times in her career.  She spent four months at the International Space Station conducting experiments and doing research about the effect of space on human behaviour.  She was their technical leader and the one everyone depended on for a safe journey from our “pale blue dot” to Earth’s only natural satellite – the Moon.


In late 2018, Japanese Billionaire announced that he was going to the moon with the help of SpaceX and he was taking artists with him.  What a crazy idea? But why not? Other adventurers took artists with them when they explored our planet. The SS Beagle carrying Darwin, which traveled from England to the Galapagos, had an artist with them. Sir Edmund Hillary, when he travelled to Mt. Everest, had journeyed with an artist. Also, Ernest Shakleton brought the photographer Frank Hurley to document his crew's journey while attempting to cross Antarctica in 1914.  Aside from astronauts taking photos from the ISS, the tradition of bringing Artists to document their journey to space stopped and forgotten. Today, the artist hired by NASA are  most in demand to enhance wonderful star photos from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Launch day started very early. Everyone was woken up – as if anyone was really sleeping. The Starship crew had been  quarantined for two weeks to ensure that everyone was healthy for the journey of a life time. A journey to the moon.

Kyle dreamt of going to space since he was 7 years old.  He knew about the Apollo Space missions and had heard about a Shuttle that NASA was building.  He, his older brother Mike, and their friends across the street had endless conversations about going to space. 

Why did man stop going to the moon in 1972?  Why is there an International Space Station being built? All of Kyle's friends agreed that building the ISS was like researching what it would be like to live at a bus stop for decades instead of pursuing the ultimate goal, which was exploring space.  We should continue to explore, they all agreed. It just did not make sense to stop 250 miles from earth – in low Earth orbit to do research. It was like we had lost our desire to go into the unknown. But that is changing, now that NASA does not have a grip on space transportation – having stopped using the Shuttle after decades of maintenance and many successfully missions.

The nervous artists slowly made their way to the showers to enjoy the last shower for the next week.  Everyone shuffling along a long hallway not saying a word but if you could hear their thoughts – the conversation would be deafening.

Breakfast was simple. Steak and eggs with fresh fruit. An astronaut’s tradition.  Kyle took advantage of the fresh fruit. He knew he would not have much available in the next week.  Coffee – they all had coffee. He loved coffee.  He was a coffee fanatic – ever since college. He searched for the best beans and even roasted them himself until his girlfriend became frustrated with the smoke alarm going off every single morning.

He grabbed his breakfast and found a seat next to Sarah and the drummer, Bangoura ('The Great One or Gift of God'" ).  They nodded to each other and sat down quietly.  Bangoura was from Conakry, Guinea, Africa. He was very quiet, like Kyle. His first language was French and had learned to speak English about 20 years ago. Bangoura was anxious – as they all were. He hardly touched his breakfast.  Kyle said “Try the orange. You won’t regret it. It is from Florida-  the best in the world.”  Bangoura signed and said “I just wish I had my mom’s special porridge recipe. It meant home to me and warmed me up when I was feeling nervous or bad. I really can’t believe this day has finally arrived!”

Bangoura is a master drummer from Conakry, Guinea, an expert of Malinke or Mandinka rhythms, and one of the world's foremost djembefolas.  His instrument is djembe or jembe, which is a rope-tuned skin covered goblet drum,  played with bare hands, and originally from West Africa.  According to the Bambara people in Mali, the name of the djembe comes from the saying "Anke djé, anke bé" which translates to "everyone gather together in peace" and defines the drum's purpose. In the Bambara language, "djé" is the verb for "gather" and "bé" translates as "peace." ( Doumbia, Abdoul; Wirzbicki, Matthew (2005). Anke Djé Anke Bé, Volume 1. 3idesign. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-9774844-0-9.) In 2005, after years of study under the legendary drummer, Famoudou Konaté, he became the master drummer for the band Les Percussions de Guinée.  He has traveled and performed in major venues all over the world since 1996 and was featured in an IMAX movie.  Since 2006, he has been performing and teaching in the United States. Bangoura has been exceptionally busy since moving to the US. He loves to conduct percussion workshops and has done so in many cities in the US and Europe. He released two musical CD's and stars in the movie A Musical Journey Through Guinea. He also released the djembe instructional DVD. His celebrated status in the drumming community is the subject of an upcoming documentary. Recently, he was given a teaching position at the The Royal Academy of Music in London England, which is associated with the University of England - having previously been a visiting lecturer from 2008 to 2011. The Royal Academy of Music not only helps people become better musicians, the institution is known for their research into all things related to performance, which further influences teaching methods and how live events are staged, and buildings are created. He felt honored to be part of the faculty at this institution. Bangoura especially enjoyed working closely with students to help them hone their performance skills – something he excelled at.  Bangoura was an entertainer at heart. He always has been.  He is from a very large family of musicians and his fondest memories were playing music with his entire family. Now he thrives in environments where he creates a feeling of friendship and family while playing his favorite instrument.

Regardless of his nervousness, Bangoura was so excited to play his beloved instrument in space. It has never left his side in all the decades that he has travelled, teaching people how to play this instrument. Bangoura was a friendly, always smiling fellow. He glowed when he played his drum – with his brilliant smile.  From his research and preparation for this journey, he learned that playing a musical instrument in space presents special challenges. Unlike Earth, where we take gravity for granted, in Space, there is micro gravity and every movement or push results in movement in the opposite direction. So, pressing a key or blowing into a wind instrument pushes you away from it because of the lack of gravity. As a result, the astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) had created novel ways to stay in place – using foot restraints or attaching bungee cords to their instruments to prevent them from floating away.  Over the months of training, Bangoura was able to talk to the famous Canadian Astronaut, Chris Hadfield, about his experience filming the YouTube sensation Space Oddity (seen 6 million times on YouTube),  written by David Bowie in 1969. David Bowie passed away in January 2016 after fighting Liver cancer for 18 months.  Chris wondered if David Bowie ever thought his music would be recorded in space. Chris also released his first album entirely recorded in space, 3 years after spending 144 days in the ISS called “Space Sessions: Songs From a Tin Can”.  He was able to set up a studio in a small area in the ISS and used Apple’s app Garage Band to record his music. The songs that he recorded there were inspired by rock & blues rhythms and describes his experience in Space. Chris was quoted as saying  “The feeling of hush and reverence when you are floating weightless at the window of the spaceship and watching the sunset pour across the world and thinking of what that’s doing and the influence on lives, and how you have this privileged position to see it – he said – it really changes how you feel”.

NASA’s psychologists, who thought that music and art were crucial to maintain the scientists’ mental health and soul, gave Chris Hadfield a guitar for musical sessions in space. The instrument, a Larrivée Parlor, was brought to the station in August 2001 and since then it was played by astronauts and cosmonauts daily, most of which were also musicians.

But Hadfield, who is a member of an exclusive the rock band, Max Q, composed of astronauts, is the first who used the guitar to record an album. “Music is an extension of what I did for 21 years as a Canadian Space Agency astronaut” he said. The proceeds of the album sales, only sold on his site, will contribute to support music schools in Canada. [https://chrishadfield.ca/music/]

Bangoura was most excited to play his instrument in space.  Understanding that the Starship capsule will be pressurized – meaning there would be air so that sound waves could travel on it – he expected his instrument to sound the same as it did on Earth. He was excited to play his instrument while viewing Earth from a distance.  

It seemed natural that Yusaku Maezawa, the billionaire how founded dearMoon, choose a drummer to join him on his trip around the moon. His favorite instrument is the drums and he was the drummer of his high school band "Switch Style".  When he met with Bangoura in London, England to ask him to join the group of artists to the moon, they had an impromptu session.  After, Bangoura jumped up and down shouting “I’m going to the moon! Thank you! Thank you SO much!”

Two minutes and 51 seconds after launch, the booster separates from the crewed spaceship and heads back to Earth. 

There was a loud bang, then a click and  then silence.  All the rattling, nerve racking motion finally stopped – Quiet – except for the woman crying in the back row – Sophia, the Italian architect.  The Super Heavy (SH) rocket was released from Starship.  They successfully escaped Earth’s atmosphere – and they were in space! Everyone loosened their seat belts and were anxious to test floating again.  They all had their first experience of non-gravitational floating during their training. During their extensive training, each artist/tourist rode the “Vomit Comet”.   In preparation for this segment of training, Kyle was super excited and made sure he did not eat for hours before the test.  It was an out of this world experience to float as he was falling within the aircraft. He never expected in his life time to have this opportunity.  Canadian Astronaut, David Saint-Jacques, described floating “It is like swimming, but you don’t get wet”. It was difficult to get used to the feeling but Kyle enjoyed it immensely.

You could feel the relief in the air. Everyone was safe and the Super Heavy (SH) had lifted them safely from Earth’s atmosphere.  Once in orbit (about an 8-minute trip), the Starship deploys its fan-like solar panels to generate power for cruising around the moon and back. According to a SpaceX flight profile, the flight to the moon will take about two days so everyone in the capsule settled in for a long trip to their destination.

Sarah complimented SpaceX saying “The Starship gave us a magnificent ride! Thank you SpaceX team for all of your hard work! We are so privileged to fly with you!”

SpaceX assembled 31 Raptor engines into the Super Heavy rockets, with another seven Raptors on the Starship itself. The engines are fueled by a mix of liquid methane and liquid oxygen and are about twice as powerful as those aboard the Merlin engines currently flying in the company's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy engines. The CAPCOM and ground control is in Houston.

CAPCOM responded “Roger, Starship!  We’ll pass that on and it’s certainly looks like you’re rolling your way now. “

Sarah replies “We have no complaints with any of those three stages on, on that, that ride. It was beautiful.”

“ Roger.” CAPCOM replies. “ We copy. No transients at staging of any significance? Over.”

“That’s right! Sarah states, “It was nominal. All a good ride!”

“Starship, this is CAPCOM Houston. For your information we expect the park orbit insertion maneuver to separation attitude to begin at 62miles (100 km) at 8 plus 5 and complete at 8 plus 20.”

Sarah responds “Roger, time to begin next maneuver in 805  complete 8020”

The Kármán line, an altitude of 100 km (62 mi) - is an attempt to define a boundary between Earth's orbit and outer space.  This is important for legal and regulatory measures; aircraft and spacecraft fall under different jurisdictions and are subject to different treaties.  US Air Force and NASA define the limit to be 50 miles (80 kilometres) above sea level for purposes of awarding personnel with outer space badges.[3] There is no international law defining the edge of space, and therefore the limit of national airspace, and the US is resisting regulatory movement on this front. The line is approximately at the turbopause, above which atmospheric gasses are not well-mixed.

“CAPCOM Starship, this is Houston. All the booster functions are proceeding normally. The sequencing is in good shape and it doesn’t look like they’re having any problems at all. Over. “

Sarah agrees by responding “Roger.”

“CAPCOM Starship, This is Starship Control and we’re showing orbital weight now, 4, 540 tones. “

Sarah hears from CAPCOM again. ”We had to shift stations. We weren’t reading you clearly.”

Sarah responds again by saying, “Roger.”

Kyle continues to listen to Sarah expertly communicate with ground control as the crew waits for the next maneuver.

 Sarah continues, Do youwant acquisition with the high gain at this time, I think. 4 “

CAPCOM responds, “Understand you are using the high gain, over.”

Sarah replies, “ That’s affirmative. “

“Ah, loud and clear now, Sarah, and we understand.”  CAPCOM replies.

“This is Starship Control. Starship’s velocity now 21,096 feet per second, distance from Earth 6,649 nautical miles. “ Sarah responds.

“Alright, Starship, this is Houston. Over.”


When Kyle first heard about the dearMoon project and  the opportunity to go to space as an artist – he could not believe the news. He was a space fanatic as a child. He visited the Kennedy Space Center in Florida more times than he could remember. He told his mom, “This is like Disney but real, right?” 

He loved everything about space. Before he could read, he asked his parents to read science and space books before bed. As he grew older, he preferred to read every science book and magazine he could get his hands on. His favorite book was Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.  He watched all thirteen episodes of the show – original and updated version hosted by Neil Tyson de Grasse.  He also read Contact, a fictional novel written by Sagan that describes contact between humanity and a more technologically advanced, extraterrestrial life form.  He was fascinated by everything about space and wanted to learn about all of it.

His father bought him his first telescope when he was 7 years old. Their neighbor, recognizing Kyle’s passion, gave him a larger telescope when he was about 11 years old. His twin sons never took it out of the box after receiving it as a Christmas gift. Kyle’s room was full of pictures of stars. He wanted to be Neil Armstrong and visit the moon when he grew up.  Whenever his parents had a cardboard box, he would make a model rocket out of it.  He would paint the outside and draw controls on the inside. He tried his darnest to make it as real as what he had seen on TV. When he was 9 years old he made a Space Shuttle costume for Halloween.  It had landing gears and he wore a flight jump suite that his parents bought him. He would never take it off. He slept in it and pretended he was an astronaut living in space. His imagination was grand.  He asked his mom, "What do astronauts eat?  That was what he wanted for breakfast. His favorite drink – was of course – Tang.

“Mom, when I grow up I’m going to the moon! I really mean it” Kyle announced to his mom when he was 10 years old.

“Yes! Honey! I hope you do!”

“What would you think if I had the chance Mom? Imagine, going to the moon!”

“I would be totally trilled for you honey. It would be a dream come true!” Kyle's mom cheered.

Unfortunately, science, math, and physics were not his best subjects in high school. He focused more and more on art and computers.  His imagination took him to his dreams. He enjoyed painting and drawing and then when he was 20, he discovered etching.  This is a specific type of art form that he invented using adhesive, glue, and sand.  He was excited by the projects he had in his mind.  Not just architecture, but cityscapes.  He also imagined what other planets would be like. His installations were huge – filling an entire wall with one scene.  His art was collected by wealthy individuals who owned large hotel chains and casinos. He was in high demand to decorate grand entrances of hotels.  Critics said his paintings brought imagination to life.  After all his success in the art world – he never dreamt he would be chosen as one of the very few to join the Japanese billionaire businessman to the moon. 

Months after the major announcement, Yusaku Maezawa sent Kyle a simple text message:  “Can we talk? YM” Kyle thought it was a joke.  He replied “Sure, who are you?” 

“I’m Yusaku Maezawa, the owner of ZOZO. The founder of dearMoon which will bring artists to the moon. Can we meet?”

Several weeks after receiving the text, Kyle was waiting nervously in the entrance of the Dominick hotel in SoHo, New York City.  One of his favourite installations filled one wall of the grand hotel entrance.  It was an interpretation of the Earth Rising, the famous photo that the Appollo astronauts took when they came from behind the moon on Christmas Eve, 1968.  In the foreground, the moon is pocketed with many giant craters, which is evidence of the harshness of space. These craters in the image are bright white and they sparkle. He was careful to use specific sand that was brilliantly white from Rabbit Beach, Lampedusa, Italy.  He wanted the moon to shine – exactly like he imagined it would in his fantasy.  Then, the darkness of space that separated the astronauts and their only home.  Our home – Earth.  Off in the distance, our “pale blue dot” – as described by Carl Sagan – when he convinced NASA to turn Voyager (1 or 2) around as it was leaving our solar system. This famous picture was taken to take a photo of what our planet looked like from the darkness of space.   Unlike the pale blue dot that was imagined in the famous photo, Kyle wanted to demonstrate the impact humans had on earth.  In almost a cartoon manor, he emphasized major cities with tall buildings, bright lights, concrete. The Earth was almost mirroring the moon since humans have become the one species to change the surface so much that a new Geological age has been named after us—Anthropocene.  The name, whose origin is a combination of anthropo- from anthropos (Ancient Greek: ἄνθρωπος) meaning "human" and -cene from kainos (Ancient Greek: καινός) meaning "new" or "recent." It was stunning to see the similarities between the moon’s surface – pummeled by Space and our Earth’s surface that was changed by human activity. The Critics loved and hated it.

“The parallel between the moon and Earth in Kyle’s newest installation is stunning. It opens conversations about how we have affected the history of the Earth.   Will Mother Earth recover from us?” on art critic asks from ARTnews.

“Brilliant – an update on one of the most famous photos of all time.” Apollo

On the other hand, an art critic from the New Criterion wrote that ““Not a wise decision of Dominick hotel in SoHo to put this controversial installation in their entrance. What were they thinking? People come to hotels to escape. This should be in an art gallery…”

As Kyle sat quietly contemplating his work of art, suddenly a large group of people exploded into the entrance way.  Reporters milled around. An Asian woman in a smartly fitted white overcoat, slim black pants, and high heels, marched straight in Kyle’s direction with her hand stretched out.

“Hello! I’m Amanda. You must be Kyle. I recognize you from your profile.  It is a great pleasure to meet you.  We have reserved one of the conference rooms in the hotel. Will you follow me?”

She guided Kyle down a long hallway with a trail of reporters, camera persons, and crew.  Kyle was wondering what was going on. He thought he was meeting Yusaku Maezawa with perhaps a few other people. He was not expecting this commotion of people!

As they entered the conference room, it quickly filled with people.  There was a small stage set up with two chairs and a screen with photos of Kyle’s work. Here on display was all the pieces he had created since he turned 21 years old and decided to drop out of college to pursue his dream. 

“Is this really happening?” Kyle thought.

Amanda guided Kyle to one of the chairs.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Ok – a little confused. What’s going on?”

“Well – this is a BIG day.  In a few minutes, Yusaku Maezawa will arrive. He has something extremely important to ask you. “ Then, she gave him a wink.  “I apologize,” Amanda said quickly with a small bow” I should have introduced myself. I’m Yusaku Maezawa personal assistant.  This must seem all over whelming to you. I’m sorry!  We are here to prepare you and the room to meet Yusaku Maezawa.  He is a very important man - as you know. “

In 1995, Yusaku started selling imported albums and CDs through the mail after graduating from high school and traveling with a girlfriend in the US. His first company, Start Today, was launched in 1998. By 2000, Start Today moved to an online platform and began to sell clothing and became a public company. Start Today opened a retail clothing website Zozotown in 2014 and six years later – Start Today became a publicly traded company listed on the “Mothers” Index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.   Recently, Yusaku introduced ZOZO, a custom-fit clothing brand, and ZOZOSUIT – an at-home measurement system. His online clothing company sells in 72 countries and territories. As of March 2021 he is estimated by Forbes to have a net worth of $1.9 billion and is the 23rd richest person in Japan.

She motioned to a woman across the room.

“Maria – this is Kyle – the famous landscape artist. Maria is our makeup artist. She will make sure you look top notch when Yusaku Maezawa arrives.” 

“Maria – Kyle has wonderful curly hair.  You know what to do to make it fabulous. – I’ll leave you to it. I have other things to look after.”

“Kyle – I’m here for you. Just let me know how I can help you. You are in great hands” and with that – she marched away in the direction of the camera men and reporters.  She was busy introducing herself to everyone, taking questions, and directing them to sit down in the appropriate seats.

“WOW!” Kyle said with a sigh.  “I would hate to have her job.”

“She is great – really. She is Yusaku Maezawa's right-hand man. Sorry – woman.  She knows how to make things happen smoothly. She has huge resources at her finger tips. If she is here – you know something huge will happen!” Maria says with delight.

“Sounds exciting” Kyle replied, a little stunned.

That was how he was invited to join dearMoon.  Now he was on his way.

 “Houston, you might be interested that from my firsthand window right now I am observing the entire continent of North America, Alaska, over the pole down to the Yucatan Peninsula, Cuba, northern part of South America and then I run out of window.”  Sarah reports to Houston as the craft orbits around the Earth for the second time.

The lucky few

Kyle found it difficult to believe that the last five years has gone bye as quickly as it has. He has literally been on a rocket ship since the day he was invited, in NYC, to be one of the five extremely lucky artists to join the first crew of Space Tourists to see the surface of the moon up close and the Earth from a distance.

After saying yes to Yusake, the demand for his art was astronomical.  He suddenly had commissions from around the world demanding his work.   The art work he did in high school, stored in the basement of his parent’s home, was suddenly up for auction at Sotheby's and Christie’s. Everyone wanted him and his work NOW.  The whirl wind attention knocked him off his feet literally.  He had fans camped out in front of his apartment in NYC for months wanting to catch a glance of him or his next “work”.  It literally drove him crazy.  In response, he quietly rented an apartment in Havana, Cuba. It was a quick jump across the Gulf of Mexico or nearby Florida or Brownsville, Tx if he needed to travel to either place for training. It was hot, beautiful, Vivi rant, and private – perfect!

The big announcement of the other artists came 6 months after Kyle and Bangoura were selected. Yusaku, said himself – he understood why his dream of bringing artists to the moon was causing so much excitement and attention.  After the dearMoon team selected Bangoura – Yusaku decided to keep the rest of the selection of artists private.  He announced on Twitter that once his team decides which artists to invite on this adventure, and they had agreed to joining him on the journey to the moon – he would make a giant announcement regarding the identities of the rest of the group.  “Keep watch on all of my socials!” he announced in late 2019.

This announcement led to a media frenzy and a discussion of who the final three to five artists would be? Based on the initial two artists, they correctly suspected that the next artist selected would be a woman.  Architects, dancers, writers, film directors, sculptures, actresses, photographers, choreographers, clothing designers, singer/song writers – were all watched closely.  Sandra Bullock, who had starred in the Hollywood hit “GRAVITY” – was asked if she would say yes to the opportunity of going to the moon? In response she said “I have not been asked but given the chance – I think I would say no. My two children need me at home on Earth. I think the risk is too great. Besides, after filming a movie about being in space – I feel as if I’ve gone there – done that!  Thank you!”

The burning question on everyone’s mind was: “What is the selection criteria for these artists soon-to-be turned astronauts?”  With help from Space X, the remaining veteran astronauts who have travelled to the moon, NASA administrators, the veteran astronauts who have spent time in space at the ISS and the Space Shuttle,  a list of criteria was released to the press:

The special artists selected to go to the moon should be reasonably healthy and physically active.  They do not need to be in competitive sports but should exercise regularly.  They should between the ages of 18 and 65.  There is no restriction from which country them come, but those chosen need to communicate in English (Written/spoken) and to understand directions in the event of an emergency. SpaceX stated that translation would not be available in real time.  Also, Yusaku imagined – not only artists creating master pieces in space – he wanted collaboration between all the artists so that they learn from each other, influence each other’s work – and perhaps create a new form of art that no one had dreamt of.  The final criteria are that they would have to be accomplished. Not necessarily famous – as in Madonna – but have a portfolio of work and be well known in their chosen field. 

The impact of Yusaku’s decision to bring artists to the moon – not scientists, mathematicians, or engineers -  had an immense impact.  After years of schools focused on STEM – children were suddenly enrolled in art, painting, film, - anything that would strengthen their creative imagination.  Sir Ken Robinson, who was a British author, speaker, and a huge advocate for revamping the 100 + year old school system ,was quoted as saying “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever suspect that returning to the moon with artists– after more than 50 year  – would have such a positive impact on our education system worldwide.”  He had been investigating, promoting, and advocating ways to change the ways in which children were taught in schools, that of receiving lectures while sitting in rows in a traditional classroom. This outdated system that was designed to create factory workers for factories that no longer existed.  This opportunity to bring artists to the moon alone gave children the freedom to demand different.  It was exciting and thrilling for parents and educators to see an evolution in education.

Searching for these special artists was not an easy task but like any industry or career, each field is very incestuous – everyone knows each other -- like a private club. Members of an elite group of painters, for example, may have never met in person, but everyone knows each other’s names.  Yusaku and his team contacted the top names of artists in all fields – they were especially interested in meeting young and upcoming artists. They were not excluding older candidates but one of the purposes of this project was to inspire creativity in young people.  They felt that the goal of selecting the correct candidate could easily be accomplished by someone young – hip – and had million of followers on all the socials (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). 

That was when the team approached Sophia -- An intense, strong architect with an ambitious vision. She is in her early 30’s and just started working for GreenTree Associates, where she hoped, in couple of years, she would become director of the firm. Her hard work and unique creativity allowed her to advance quickly in her career. She noticed immediately during her studies and after graduation, the small numbers of women in architecture and even fewer who was achieving success. In her free time, she visits local high schools in wherever city she was working in to talk to students and encourage them to follow their dreams.  She especially encouraged the young girls in the audience to  achieve success in any field they are interested in. She promoted the idea that each failure was an opportunity to learn and to ask more questions. ‘Why didn’t that work out the way I had hoped?  What can I do better next time? Maybe it was just as simple as asking the right person for help or mentorship. After all, we can’t do it all alone.  We need support in every step of our careers., She would emphasize in her talks. She also stressed how important it was to have a strong, healthy vibrant, and resilient network to support you when you need it.  The network also provided opportunities for her to help others. Her ultimate dream was to leave her current job to create the largest female only firm in the country. She would call it Lilith Structures. Lilith is a figure in Jewish mythology, developed earliest in the Babylonian Talmud. Lilith is often envisioned as a dangerous demon of the night, who is sexually wanton, and who steals babies in the darkness. She is also considered to be  Adam's first wife and, unlike Eve, was created at the same time and from the same clay as Adam. In an alternative Genesis story, Lilith left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him and then would not return to the Garden of Eden after she had coupled with the archangel Samael.

Sophia is well known for her excellent executions and projects construction. With endless amounts of energy, Sophia strove to complete huge constructions on time and under budget such as LAX Terminal one, the Brazillian embassy in Tokyo, and the Tiger Plaza in San Francisco.  One of her ‘inventions’ is the “Casa de Vidro” the glass house where plants have grown all over it.  She has also worked on the Brasilia Museum of Art and Solar do Unhão sugar mill converted to a craft museum.

An impressive activist and an emotional Italian architect, she graduated from Rome college as valedictorian for her class. Her passion to help people has given her the ability to not only to please the inhabitants of her work, but impress them. After graduating she moved to Brazil to begin her work there. Known for her human and modern architecture, she stood against the demolition of a factory in Brazil and turned it into an architectural masterpiece ‘Centro de Lazer Fábrica da Pompéia’ (Pompéia Factory Leisure Centre), that served the culture of the area.

After opening the LAX Terminal one, she quoted a fellow female Architect, Lina Bo Bardi, saying  “linear time is a western invention. Time is not linear, it’s a marvelous tangle where at any moment, points can be selected and solutions invented without beginning or ending”.  Personally, she felt that she was in a race against time. She had a long list of things to accomplish in this life time – damn it.  In her opinion, her goals were not happening quickly enough.  When she was approached by Yusaku’s team to go to the moon it gave her pause to reflect on her list of life priorities. 

In Yusaku’s office in Japan, she was invited to visit him for lunch. She knew about his dream of bringing artists to the moon, but she was also aware of his success in the fashion industry. She thought she was invited to discuss a new building for his clothing company. Maybe a factory/store front.  She knew his desire to stay one step ahead of the industry – being one of the first to provide custom suits to online buyers.  She was excited to talk to him to share her ideas. When he asked her to join him to  travel to the moon – she felt it came out of left field. “Really?  I need to think about it!” With that – she stood up and left his office. She literally ran from the building.  “What the heck??” she thought “ I didn’t see that coming? Why? I’m normally so prepared.” She stopped and screamed “What the hell am I going to do now?!!”

Jorge, the Photographer, was the most difficult of the artists to track down. His landscape photography is breath taking. After years of trial and error and a long windy road – Jorge had made it as a professional travel photographer. A dream into which he poured all his heart and passion into to achieve.  He is a world traveler who didn’t seem to spend any time in any country for any length of time. As a result, it took weeks for Yusaku’s team to organize a meeting because Jorge is in such high demand and on the move all the time.

Jorge is a highly educated aerospace engineer who focused his sights on working for NASA. Unfortunately, during his studies, he became exhausted with math and engineering. His interest in space was sparked by the famous Apollo 11 landing on the moon. He was already interested in photos that were taken from space. During the 16th orbit around the moon, Lunar Orbiter 1 took the world’s first view of the Earth from the moon on August 23, 1966. He still has the print of the Blue Marble that his parents gave him as a Christmas present. The famous photo was taken by Apollo 17 (December 7 1972) space craft at a distance of 29 000 km or 18 000 miles from the surface of the moon.  Jorge wondered how blue will the “Blue Marble” appear from the moon after 50 years of space junk around Earth?

After five intensive years of study, he said he didn’t want to spend his career doing “math equations or hearing about laminar flow through a nozzle for the rest of my life.”  He found comfort and solace in travel. He successfully graduated from his aerospace degree Magna Cum Laude with a BS in aerospace engineering.

That was when Jorge’s adventure in photography started. For the next year, he did nothing but work and save money for the next stage of his life. He wanted to travel, and his first country was New Zealand, his homeland.   Once he traveled throughout the two Islands, learning a few words in Marui, he continued his adventure through more than 20 countries, eating as much street food as he could, and learning how to ask for beer and say "please" and "thank you" in more than 10 languages. The travel bug had bit him, and he did not want to stop. For more than two decades he took stunning photos as he continued to travel around the world to more than 40 countries.  He did not buy his first camera until he was 25 years old. Once he ran out of money during his initial trip around the world, he returned to New Zealand and found a job at Pratt and Whitney New Zealand HEAD OFFICE.

 He enjoyed his work there but best of all, they had a better than reasonable vacation policy. Even first level employees were able to take up to 5 weeks off each year for vacation.  So, he would dream and plan the next a big trip/adventure. He bought a Nikon camera and off he went.  He took as many “good” photos as he could but when he returned, he looked at the results and was extremely disappointed. He wanted to share his experience with his friends, but his photos were horrible.  Jorge resolved to fix the problems that stopped him from taking decent photos.  Engineers do that – Fix problems! He started by reading articles on the different parts of a camera, and the reasons why you purchase one type of aperture, over another, for example. He learned the effect of shutter speed on photos in different environments. He learned how to take raw photos. He also learned an important lesson – how to remove the lens cap quickly. Jorge reached out to photographers whom he admired to see if he could join them on jobs.  He also studied their works. He tried to learn about their lighting (the best time of day and weather to take photos) and composition (the elements in the frame) to determine what worked and what failed.  His photos began to take shape. He began to enjoy photography because it was very satisfying. It soon became an all-encompassing hobby. Many of his evenings and weekends were spent out crashing around the south island between the exceptionally lovely area of Christchurch and Invercargill looking for the best spots to take the best photos he could. He passion for his hobby grew until one day – he decided he wanted to make photography his career.  He approached his manager and was laid off.  It was the break he was looking for – time to focus on his photography business but his next big challenge/problem to solve was to prove how he could survive as a small business owner.

For the next five years, he took odd jobs assisting with photography workshops, attended art festivals, working side jobs, even went back to engineering as a consultant for about half a year, and racking up all sorts of credit card debt. Eventually, with help of a friend and fellow landscape photographer, they co-founded a workshop company. And all the while he continued to build diverse income streams from teaching to print sales to licensing to photo contests to recording and selling video tutorials. And eventually, in 2012, he was able to earn 100% of his income from photo-related activities. Damn, did that feel good! He celebrated his newfound career and his ultimate freedom with friends and family when he has secured enough funding to be a travel landscape photographer full-time. His dream had come true after many years of hard work.

Then in 2014, Nikon contacted Jorge. They asked him to help create sample photos for the international marketing efforts of the D750 camera. Totally shocked and honored, he spent the next month roaming around Queenstown, NZ and Lake Wakatipu with a prototype D750, taking photos that demonstrated the remarkable features of the camera. Those photos were published on Nikon’s website and in promotional materials around the world. That led to Jorge speaking about the experience International Landscape Photographers’ Association summit, one of the world’s the largest photo trade shows.  In 2015 it was held Banff, Canada.  Since then, Jorge has enjoyed being on speaking tours and continues to travel the globe taking amazing landscape photos of his passion: taking the most beautiful photos of Earth!

He loves sharing the most amazing places he has visited through his years of travel. Places you never dreamed existed! He wants to encourage everyone to get out and explore. He also desires that everyone, especially very young people, to build relationships with nature so it will be protected. He also feels tremendous gratitude for the winding path he's found himself on.  He is passionate about sharing his photos of his favorite subject, helping people learn to be better photographers through his speaking appearances and workshops, and helping aiding people to turn their hobby into a successful thriving business. “The freedom to travel when and where you want, to see the world’s most beautiful places, and to have unbelievable personal experiences with nature: these are just a few of the things that come with being a full-time nature photographer”, he was quoted as saying.

Jorge is an avid star gazer and began to take time-lapse photos of the stars in high school.  Aside from taking his own photos of stars, he started a catalogue of the most famous photos of space photography:

  • First View of Earth from space: Lunar Orbiter 1 on August 23, 1966. This image was taken during the spacecraft’s 16th orbit around the moon.

  • Fragile Earth: Apollo 8 mission (1968). Astronaut William A. Anders snapped “Earthrise” – the Earth rising from the horizon of the moon helped use realize the fragility of our home planet.

  • Buzz Aldrin’s own footprint during NASA’s 1969 Apollo 11 mission

  •  Illuminated slice of Earth’s Western Hemisphere – blurry image of Earth from the Martian surface taken by NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor on May 8, 2003.

  • Mars’ Surface from Viking 1 on July 20, 1976

  • Desert like surface of Venus from the Russian spacecraft Venera 13 on March 1, 1982

  • Saturn’s Moon Titan from Cassini-Huygen’s mission on January 14, 2005

  • First Exo Plane by European Southern Observatory in 2004

  • First photo of the Sun by  French physicists Louis Fizeau and Leon Foucault on April 2, 1845.

  • 10 000 galaxies in Hubble Ultra Deep Field – representing 800 exposures taken during 400 Hubble Space Telescope orbits around the earth from Sept 2003 and Jan 2004.

He believes that life exists outside of our Earth and beyond the solar system. Life must exist elsewhere – there are just too many planets and solar systems in our giant universe to believe that we are alone.  One of his favorite television shows was the X-Files. He never missed an episode.  He very much wants to Believe -just as the character Moulder.  Scientists first began searching for alien signals shortly after the advent of radio technology, around the turn of the 20th century, and teams of astronomers across the globe have been taking part in the formal Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) since the 1980s. Yet, the universe continues to appear devoid of life.

As Jorge settles into his spot in the helicopter on the Puna coastline of the Hawaiian Island, his phone rings.  “Jorge, this is Amanda, personal assistant of Yusaku of ZOZO.  Is this a bad time to chat?”

“I’d say! I’m on the way to the ridge of active hot springs to take photos of extremophiles.  Can I call you back?” 

“No! No! That is ok!  I understand you are busy. Let me try calling you another time.”

“Choice” Jorge hollers into the phone.  “Please call me back. I’d love to talk to you.” 

Then, with all the excitement of the day he quickly forgot about the phone call.  Weeks passed, when he was on another photography assignment – this time in Cambodia – to take photos of the famous Angkor Watts his phone rang at 3 am in the morning.

“Hello Jorge!  This is Amanda, personal assistant of Yusaku of ZOZO. Is this a bad time to chat?”

“Hello!? Who is this?  It’s 3 am – can I call you back later?”

“Oh! Yes! Of course! I am terribly sorry to have woken you.  Please go back to sleep. We will talk soon.”

“Sweet as!” and then click.

Months went by before Amanda was able to track Jorge down again.  This time, Jorge was teaching a workshop on Landscape Photography in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  In the middle of the presentation his phone rang so he quickly sent the caller to voice mail.  During the break, Jorge checked his message and heard a familiar voice.

“Hello Jorge! This is Amanda, personal assistant of Yusaku of ZOZO. Do you have a minute to chat? Please call me back at 1-800-###-####  It is my personal line. I’m looking forward to touching base with you soon.”

Realizing that this was Amanda’s third attempt contacting him in as many months, he quickly called her back during the break.

“Hello Amanda! This is Jorge. How can I help you? I’m sorry it has taken this much effort for use to talk.”

“It certainly has. You are a busy guy who is just about to get a whole lot busier!

Published: March 23, 2021

#dearMoon  Audition video

>>>Click HERE to read Chapter 2<<<










www.lifegate.com/people/lifestyle/astronaut-chris-hadfield-album-space,  Retrieved March 17, 2019 





www.joshuacripps.com/start-here/#workwithjosh, Retrieved March 25, 2019






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