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Space tourism: Japanese billionaire returns to Earth after 12 days aboard the ISS


Feet back on Earth. A Japanese billionaire, accompanied by his assistant and a Russian cosmonaut, landed this Monday, December 20 after spending 12 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS), where they filmed videos about daily life in the space.

The whimsical Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, a 46-year-old online fashion heavyweight, and his assistant Yozo Hirano were accompanied on the way home and on the way by Russian cosmonaut Alexander Missurkin.

The landing was made around 03:13 GMT Monday, in the steppe of Kazakhstan. Footage from the landing site, about 150 kilometers southeast of the city of Zhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan, showed the trio smiling after being helped out of the Soyuz descent module and into vehicles evacuation, in the cold and the mist.

The trip marks Russia’s return to space tourism after a decade-long hiatus. This sector, in which Russia has lost ground against private American companies, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX, is experiencing renewed interest and constitutes a potential financial windfall. The three men spent 12 days aboard the ISS, where the Japanese billionaire had set himself a list of 100 tasks to accomplish in space.

“Peeing is very easy”

Yusaku Maezawa’s assistant made videos on daily life in orbit for the billionaire’s YouTube account. We can see the man explaining in detail to his million followers how to brush his teeth or even go to the toilet in zero gravity. “Peeing is very easy,” he says in one of the videos, showing the tool astronauts use to suck urine.

In another, he makes himself a tea without sugar and praises the tasty cookies of the ISS. Maezawa and his assistant are the first Japanese tourists to space since 1990, when a journalist stayed aboard the Soviet Mir station.

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

The last was, in 2009, the Canadian Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil. A sign of the rediscovered ambitions of the Russian space sector, Roscosmos also sent in October a director and an actress aboard the ISS to shoot the first feature film in orbit history, before a competing project by Hollywood star Tom Cruise.