Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, two crewmates arrive at the International Space Station

Three people have just arrived at the International Space Station, and two of them are space tourists.

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, video producer Yozo Hirano, and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin contacted the orbiting lab on Wednesday (December 8) at 8:40 a.m. EST (1340 GMT). ).

The trio left Earth just six hours earlier, and launched on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday at 2:38 a.m. EST (1738 GMT).

The hatches between the International Space Station and the Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft are scheduled to open at 10:35 a.m. EST (1535 GMT) on Wednesday. You can watch that moment, which will allow the trio to leave Soyuz to join the rest of the crew aboard the station, here on, courtesy of NASA TV, or directly via the space agency. Coverage is scheduled to begin at 10:15 am EST (1515 GMT).

Photos: The first space tourists

A view of the Soyuz MS-20 capsule flying near the International Space Station before docking on December 8, 2021. (Image credit: NASA TV)

The Maezawa, Hirano and Misurkin mission was organized by the Virginia company Space Adventures, which previously helped send seven paying customers on eight trips to the space station. (One of those people flew twice.) But it had been a while; the most recent of those Space Adventures flights launched in 2009.

Maezawa, the CEO of Start Today and founder of online clothing retailer ZOZO, purchased the seats for himself and Hirano, who will document the 12-day mission and participate in some health and performance research. Veteran cosmonaut Misurkin, the mission commander, will show rookies how it works.

The Russian Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft, atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket, lifts off for a short stay on the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Wednesday, December 8, 2021.

The Russian Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft, atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket, lifts off for a short stay on the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, December 8, 2021. (Image credit: Roscosmos TV)

The trio are scheduled to return to Earth on Sunday (December 19). After landing, Maezawa will probably start thinking about his next space flight, which will take him much further. The billionaire has booked a trip around the moon in SpaceX’s massive Starship vehicle, with liftoff tentatively scheduled for 2023.

Two other amateur space flyers also lived aboard the space station recently. Russian film director Klim Shipenko and actress Yulia Peresild visited the orbital laboratory for 12 days in October to film parts of a movie called “The Challenge.” His trip was not organized by Space Adventures.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.

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