Japanese Billionaire Yusaku Maezawa Arrives at the Space Station

Yusaku MaezawaThe Japanese billionaire and fashion retailer arrived on the International Space Station for a 12-day stay on Wednesday. It is the latest privately funded rover to the orbital lab in a year with more tourists traveling to space than ever before.

Mr. Maezawa, founder of Zozo, a Japanese online fashion retailer, was launched from Kazakhstan at 02:38 ET (10:38 pm local time) on a Russian Soyuz rocket with Yozo Hirano, a production assistant. his trip. Russian astronaut Alexander Misurkin was also on board. The three-man crew docked at the space station six hours later at 8:40 a.m. and will be boarding the station in a few hours.

Seeking an animated adventure, Mr. Maezawa gained international attention in 2016 when he spent $57.3 million at an auction for a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat. paid in 2017 $110.5 million for another painting by the same artist. in 2018, announced his interest in space flight At an event at SpaceX’s Southern California headquarters, where he joined company founder Elon Musk on stage, he announced that he would be the first passenger to board SpaceX’s Starship, a massive next-generation rocket that will one day transport NASA astronauts there. lunar surface.

This Starship mission, circle the moon and go back, scheduled for 2023, but likely to be delayed. Mr. Maezawa had planned to invite a group of artists for the trip, but earlier last year he launched a public competition where women can apply to be “life partners” and join him on the moon trip – research that will be turned into a matchmaking documentary. After criticism of the statement he canceled plans and the applicant apologized to approximately 28,000 women. Later, he opened a new call for eight people to join him in the mission instead.

The space station tour for Mr. Maezawa, 46, was announced in May and has been training for weeks at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center just outside Moscow. He will spend 12 days at the station, and Mr. Hirano, who runs Mr. Maezawa’s YouTube channel, will explain the mission from start to finish.

“This opportunity has blessed me and I am truly happy to be able to go,” Mr. Maezawa told reporters at a press conference the day before his flight, adding that he looks forward to gliding Earth through space and weightlessly through the air. She said she felt like “an elementary school student waiting for her school trip.”

While on board, he will participate in a research program that studies how the human body responds to the conditions of space. it is crowdsourced 100 things to do list while on the station, which includes getting a haircut, playing an instrument, and searching for aliens.

For the space station trip, Mr. Maezawa booked through Space Adventures, a US-based company that organizes trips to space for wealthy tourists. He did not say how much he paid for the task.

The crew went into space on the Soyuz rocket, Russia’s horsepower spacecraft that launched its astronauts to the International Space Station. Before SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule became NASA’s choice, American astronauts relied on Soyuz for trips to the space station between 2011 and 2020, with each seat costing NASA about $70 million to $100 million.

Space Adventures co-founder and CEO Eric Anderson said the price Mr. Maezawa paid for each of his and Mr. Hirano’s seats was “definitely on that ballpark.”

“The price hasn’t dropped, it has increased over the years,” Mr. Anderson said in a phone call. “It has two seats and is expensive but worth it.”

The mission is Space Adventures’ eighth since 2001, when Dennis Tito, an American engineer and businessman, was the first to self-finance space travel. Like other wealthy space tourists, Mr. Maezawa was motivated to fly into space in part “because he had so much good food and other things to do”. Mr. Anderson.

Mr. Maezawa and his friend are not the only private individuals boarding the station this year. In October, Russian actress and director He was sent to the space station to spend eight days filming the first feature film with scenes shot in space.

And the two aren’t even the only special passengers going into space this week. On Thursday, Blue Origin, the company founded by former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is scheduled to take its third group of passengers to the edge of space. Michael Strahan, TV host and former New York Giants defensive end are among six passengers aboard the New Shepard suborbital spacecraft.

These tourist trips are emerging as private companies and government space agencies try to make space for more people than just government-sponsored astronauts.

Musk’s SpaceX earlier this year, First fully custom orbital mission named Inspiration4. The four passengers, led by the mission’s billionaire backer Jared Isaacman, spent three days in Earth orbit at a higher altitude than the space station. Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, the publicly traded space tourism company founded by Richard Branson, offer shorter trips that do not reach orbit and take about 10 minutes from takeoff to landing.

And beyond the short trips into space, Blue Origin and other companies are making plans to build private space stations In orbit with support from NASA. The agency hopes to keep the current International Space Station operational until 2030, then transition to commercially owned and operated stations.

Another private space company, Axiom Space, plans to add custom modules to the space station. eventually separated from each other and became his own laboratory.. Similar to Space Adventures, the company also offers special trips to the space station. Its first such mission is scheduled for February. sending three wealthy people to the lab for $55 million each.

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