TOKYO - Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa cancelled his "dearMoon" mission, which the project said was to have been the first private flight around the moon, the mission announced on Saturday.

The team had originally aimed to make the circumlunar flight with celebrities on board by the end of last year but that became "unfeasible", the mission said in a statement on its website.

"Without clear schedule certainty in the near-term, it is with a heavy heart that Maezawa made the unavoidable decision to cancel the project," it said. "To all who have supported this project and looked forward to this endeavor, we sincerely appreciate it and apologize for this outcome."

The statement gave no further details on the cause of the cancellation.

Elon Musk's SpaceX named Maezawa, the colourful founder of Japanese online fashion store Zozo Inc, its first private passenger in 2018.

Three years later he was the first private passenger to visit the International Space Station in more than a decade, launching on a Soyuz rocket.

In 2022, Maezawa announced that K-pop star TOP and DJ Steve Aoki would be among the eight crew members he planned to take on the dearMoon mission.

In November he said the flyby mission would be delayed until this year or later.

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by William Mallard)