Science

Space tourism: the Japanese billionaire has docked to the ISS

By Sudouest.fr with AFP
Posted on 12/08/2021 at 1:20 PM.
Updated 12/08/2021 at 3:20 pm

Japanese billionaire takes off aboard a Russian rocket for a 12-day stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS), a journey marking Russia’s return to space tourism

This sector, in which Russia has lost ground to private US companies, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX, is seeing renewed interest and constitutes a potential financial windfall.

The capricious 46-year-old Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who made his fortune from online fashion, and his assistant Yozo Hirano took off from the Russian Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 0738 GMT, as scheduled. The flight in the space capsule lasted six hours, before docking with the Russian segment of the ISS. Currently, seven people are on board the ISS, including two Russians and one Japanese.

Billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will also participate in an upcoming SpaceX flight.

KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

The stay of the space tourists at the orbital station will be documented by Yozo Hirano for and with his boss on YouTube. Cosmonaut Alexandre Missourkine has planned a “friendly” weightless badminton tournament with his teammates.

The billionaire has set himself 100 tasks to perform in space. Before that and for long weeks, he and his assistant prepared in Star City, a city built near Moscow in the 1960s to train generations of cosmonauts.

A Japanese tourist’s previous trip to space dates back to 1990, when a journalist stayed aboard the Soviet Mir station.

Profitable sector

The highly lucrative private space flight sector is currently being boosted by the recent entry into the careers of American billionaires Elon Musk (SpaceX) and Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin), as well as that of Britain’s Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic ). .

In September, SpaceX organized a three-day orbit flight with a fully amateur crew. He also plans to take several tourists around the moon in 2023, including Maezawa, who is financing this operation.

After a decade-long hiatus, Wednesday’s flight marks the return to the arena of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, as Russia’s aerospace industry is plagued by corruption scandals and technical and financial difficulties.

In 2020, with the commissioning of SpaceX rockets and capsules, this country lost its monopoly on manned flights to the ISS and the tens of millions of euros that NASA and other space agencies paid for each seat aboard the Soyuz .

Already eight flights between 2001 and 2009

The mission of the two Japanese tourists is organized by Roscosmos and its American partner Space Adventures. Between 2001 and 2009, these two groups had already sent extremely wealthy entrepreneurs into space together eight times.

” It’s great […] to share this great adventure ”with Mr. Maezawa, said Tom Shelley, president of Space Adventures, present in Baikonur, shortly after takeoff.

A sign of the Russian space sector’s desire for a facelift, Roscosmos also sent a director and actress aboard the ISS in October to shoot the first feature film in orbit, ahead of a competitive project by Hollywood star Tom Cruise. .

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