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Japanese tycoon arrives at ISS as Russia resumes space tourism

BAIKONUR, KAZAKHSTAN (Japan Times/ANN) -- A Japanese billionaire arrived at the International Space Station on Wednesday, marking Russia’s return to space tourism after a decade long pause that saw the rise of competition from the United States.

Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa looks on during a space suit check shortly before the launch to the International Space Station at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.

Online fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa and his assistant Yozo Hirano blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan earlier on Wednesday.
They docked with the Poisk module of the Russian segment of the ISS at 1340 GMT, the Russian space agency said.
A Roscosmos live feed showed the hatch of the Soyuz MS-20 capsule open at 1611 GMT, showing Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin entering the ISS, followed by Maezawa and Hirano, the first private Japanese citizens to visit space since journalist Toyohiro Akiyama traveled to the Mir space station in 1990.
Their journey aboard the three-person Soyuz spacecraft piloted by cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin will took just over six hours, capping a banner year that many have seen as a turning point for private space travel.
On launch day, Maezawa and his crew left their hotel in Baikonur to a Soviet-era song played for all cosmonauts ahead of their flights. The song, about cosmonauts missing home, was sung partially in Japanese.
Maezawa’s family and friends some holding Japanese flags waved him off as he was driven off to get his spacesuit fitted. “Dream come true,” the tycoon tweeted on Wednesday morning. Fellow billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson all made breakthrough commercial tourism flights this year, busting into a market Russia is keen to defend.
The trio will spend 12 days on the station. The Japanese tourists plan to document their daily life aboard the space station to share on Maezawa’s popular YouTube channel.
The 46-year-old billionaire has set out 100 tasks to complete while on board, including hosting a badminton tournament in orbit.

(Latest Update December 10, 2021)

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