In March 2021, Yusaku Maezawa, the space-obsessed Japanese billionaire behind the e-commerce site Zozotown, announced a contest to select eight civilian crew members to join him on a private spaceflight. The weeklong mission, called dearMoon, will fly around the moon and back on a SpaceX Starship sometime in 2023.
One person paying especially close attention to Maezawa’s mission was Tim Dodd, a professional photographer turned space YouTuber from Iowa. Also known as Everyday Astronaut, Dodd has a YouTube channel with 1.37 million subscribers where he covers the public and private rocket launches taking place around the world.
“I decided, Yeah, why not? I’ll submit an application,” Dodd said. He made a video explaining why he wanted to take part in dearMoon but never thought he’d make it to the final eight. “I hadn’t even remotely considered the possibility of going,” he said. “I really just felt like it was an opportunity too good to pass up.”
Despite the odds — Maezawa said more than 1 million people applied for the moon mission — Dodd was announced as one of the crew members earlier this month, alongside musician Steve Aoki, K-pop artist T.O.P, Indian actor Dev Joshi, and four others. They will accompany Maezawa, who last year flew to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. The crew members have passed full health checks and a litany of tests, but they still have to undergo months of rigorous training.
Earlier this year, Coby Cotton of the YouTube channel Dude Perfect went into suborbital space on a Blue Origin mission, but Dodd will be the first full-time YouTuber to travel into outer space. “I have a chance of pushing those boundaries a little bit further by going out to the moon,” Dodd said. (The mission will not actually land on the lunar surface.)
“It’s insane to think about going 240,000 miles away from home,” he said. “How do you physically and mentally truly prepare for that? It’s so absurd. To go through all that and live in that experience, to see it and feel it and then to go through the reentry and landing phase and know you’re safe on Earth and back home, I think the emotions will just be so high I don’t think you’ll be able to function.”
To make it to the final eight, Dodd underwent multiple Zoom interviews with the dearMoon project. Among the questions Dodd and others were asked was what they could bring to the mission. “I’m like, ‘Honestly, I have no idea,’” he recalled. “‘I might just sit there and weep for like two days.’” Jokes aside, Dodd touted his photography and videography skills, as well as his space expertise. “I can communicate,” he said. “I can help explain to the crew what’s going on.”