Moscow (AFP) – A Japanese billionaire returned to Earth on Monday accompanied by his assistant and a Russian cosmonaut after spending 12 days on the International Space Station, where they filmed videos of daily life in space.
Fashion mogul Yusaku Maezawa, 46, and his assistant Yozo Hirano landed on the Kazakh steppe on Monday morning, along with Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, the Russian space agency reported.
“The flight of the Soyuz MS-20 ‘tourist’ spacecraft has been completed,” the Roscosmos agency said in a statement on its website.
Images relayed from the landing site, about 150 kilometers southeast of the city of Zhezkazgan, in central Kazakhstan, showed the smiling trio after being helped out of the Soyuz lander and into evacuation vehicles in the cold and the mist.
According to the central military district press service, they were greeted upon arrival with a “surprise” plate of noodles from Japan.
This trip has marked Russia’s return to space tourism after a decade-long hiatus. This sector, in which it has lost ground to private US companies, including the billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX, is experiencing a large increase in interest and is a source of financial income.
For his part, Maezawa’s assistant filmed videos about daily life in orbit to post on his employer’s YouTube account.
An image of Japanese millionaire Yusaku Maezawa from the Russian Soyuz MS-20 landing site in Kazakhstan, on a screen at the Korolyov space control center near Moscow on December 20, 2021
An image of Japanese millionaire Yusaku Maezawa from the Russian Soyuz MS-20 landing site in Kazakhstan, on a screen at the Korolyov space control center near Moscow on December 20, 2021 Alexander Nemenov AFP
The man can be seen explaining in detail to his million followers how to brush their teeth or even go to the bathroom in zero gravity.
“Peeing is very easy,” he says in one of the videos, showing the device used by astronauts, which sucks urine. In another, brewing unsweetened tea and praising the flavor of the ISS cookies.
Maezawa and his henchman are the first Japanese tourists to travel into space since 1990, when a journalist was aboard the Soviet Mir station.
This very lucrative sector of private space flights is currently being energized by the recent entry into the career of the companies of the American billionaires Elon Musk (SpaceX) and Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin), or that of the British Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic).
In September, SpaceX staged a three-day orbital flight with an all-amateur crew. In addition, it plans to take several tourists to go around the Moon in 2023, including Maezawa, who finances this operation.
An image of the Russian Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft shortly after separating from the International Space Station to begin its return to Earth, on a screen at the Korolyov space control center near Moscow on December 20, 2021.
An image of the Russian Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft shortly after separating from the International Space Station to begin its return to Earth, on a screen at the Korolyov space control center near Moscow on December 20, 2021. Alexander Nemenov AFP
The trip that ended on Monday marks the return, after more than a decade, of Roscosmos to the ring, as the Russian aerospace industry is plagued by corruption scandals and both technical and financial difficulties.
In 2020, with the commissioning of SpaceX rockets and capsules, Moscow lost its monopoly on flights to the ISS and the tens of millions of dollars that NASA and other space agencies paid for each seat aboard Soyuz.
The mission of these two Japanese tourists was organized by Roscosmos together with its American partner Space Adventures.
Between 2001 and 2009, in collaboration, these groups had already sent extremely wealthy entrepreneurs into space eight times.
The last had been, in 2009, the Canadian Guy Laliberté, founder of the popular ‘Cirque du Soleil’.
A sign of the ambitions regained by the Russian space sector, Roscosmos also sent a director and an actress aboard the ISS last October to shoot the first fictional film in orbit in history, before a similar project is realized. of Hollywood star Tom Cruise