Science

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa takes off for space station on Russian Soyuz

A Japanese billionaire embarked for a short stay on the International Space Station to experience life in space before flying to the moon.

Yusaku Maezawa, who previously booked a lunar flight with SpaceX, took off with his production assistant Yozo Hirano and veteran cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin of the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos aboard Russia’s Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft on Wednesday (8 de December). The 2:38 am EST (0738 GMT or 12:38 pm local time) launch on a Soyuz 2.1a rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan marked the first space tourist flight to the station since 2009 and the first launch of two autonomous vehicles. funded space flight participants in a Soyuz.

The three Soyuz MS-20 crewmates are scheduled to arrive at the space station around 8:41 a.m. EST (1341 GMT) on Wednesday after their spacecraft competes in a four-orbiting encounter and autonomous docking with the Poisk research module.

Related: The First Space Tourists (Photos)

Maezawa, Hirano and Misurkin will spend 12 days on the space station, where they will join Expedition 66 commander Anton Shkaplerov and Roscosmos cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov; NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron; and astronaut Matthias Maurer from the European Space Agency (ESA).

A Japanese e-commerce entrepreneur, Maezawa will share his experience on the space station, filmed by Hirano, on his YouTube channel. He has a list of 100 things to do in space, as the audience suggested, ranging from “flying the farthest paper plane” to “doing a TikTok dance” to “bringing the air back” to the International Space Station. .

“I didn’t think I could go into space,” Maezawa told a press conference ahead of its launch. “I feel lucky to have this opportunity and finally fulfill my dream.”

In addition to filming Maezawa, Hirano will also participate in human health and performance research on behalf of the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine. The studies will include the collection of electrocardiogram (ECG) readings, participation in a series of cognitive tests, and the use of a portable autorefractor device to collect visual data.

“I am excited to be involved in this research as it will help scientists reduce health risks for future space explorers,” Hirano said in a statement.

Misurkin will serve as Maezawa and Hirano’s guide during the mission and will become the first space correspondent for the Russian news agency TASS. Under an agreement with Roscosmos, Misurkin will establish a TASS news office at the station and provide daily reports on crew activities. Your articles, photos and videos will be published on the news agency’s website and social media accounts.

Soyuz MS-20 crew, from left: assistant Yozo Hirano, cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, and billionaire Yusaku Maezawa.

The Soyuz MS-20 crew, from left: Assistant Yozo Hirano, Cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, and billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. (Image credit: Roscosmos)

On Sunday (December 19), Misurkin, Maezawa, and Hirano will return to Earth in Soyuz MS-20, completing the mission with a landing in the Kazakh steppe.

Maezawa, 46, is the CEO of Start Today and founder of ZOZO, an online clothing retailer, which sold to Yahoo! Japan. In 2018, it paid an undisclosed but substantial amount to SpaceX for a circumlunar flight on the company’s still-in-development Starship spacecraft. Maezawa’s “dearMoon” mission, which will take him and a team of artists around the moon, is currently scheduled for launch in 2023.

Hirano, 36, led the photography team at ZOZO and is now a film producer at Start Today. He works on Maezawa’s private projects, including filming for Maezawa’s YouTube channel. Hirano’s flight on Soyuz MS-20 was funded by Maezawa.

Both the Maezawa and Hirano seats were arranged by Space Adventures, the only company that secured flight contracts for its clients to fly to the International Space Station. Before Soyuz MS-20, Space Adventures organized eight flights for seven people (one flew twice).

Related: Construction of the International Space Station (photos)

The Soyuz MS-20 patch includes an eagle to represent Commander Alexander Misurkin and Yusaku Maezawa's 'MZ' logo.

The Soyuz MS-20 patch includes an eagle to represent Commander Alexander Misurkin and Yusaku Maezawa’s ‘MZ’ logo. (Image credit: Roscosmos)

Maezawa and Hirano are the first Japanese citizens to fly into space since television journalist Toyohiro Akiyama spent nearly eight days on Russia’s former Mir space station in 1990.

Misurkin, 44, is now on his third space flight, having previously served on the crews of Expedition 35/36 and Expedition 53/54 of the space station. Before taking off on Soyuz MS-20, Misurkin had already logged 334 days in space.

Soyuz MS-20 is Russia’s 66th Soyuz launched to the International Space Station since 2000 and the 149th that has been flying since 1967.

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