Japanese billionaire on way to space station for 12-day trip

TOKYO, Dec 8: Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa embarked for a 12-day trip to the International Space Station (ISS) to experience life in space before flying to the moon, the media reported.

Maezawa, who earlier booked a lunar flight with SpaceX, lifted off with his production assistant Yozo Hirano and veteran cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin of the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos on board Russia’s Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft, Space.com reported.

The flight took off at 2:38 a.m. EST (1.08 p.m. IST) atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It marked the first space tourist flight bound for the station since 2009 and the first launch of two self-funded spaceflight participants on a Soyuz.

The spacecraft was likely to complete a four-orbit rendezvous and autonomous docking with the Poisk research module before arriving at the space station.

Maezawa, Hirano and Misurkin will spend 12 days at the space station, where they will join Expedition 66 commander Anton Shkaplerov and cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos; NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron; and astronaut Matthias Maurer with the European Space Agency (ESA).

Maezawa’s experience on the space station will be “filmed by Hirano” and posted on his YouTube channel. Japanese e-commerce entrepreneur has a list of 100 things to do in space as were suggested by the public that range from “flying the farthest paper airplane” to “doing a TikTok dance” to “bringing back air” from the ISS, the report said.

“I didn’t think I would be able to go to space,” Maezawa said at a press conference prior to his launch. “I feel fortunate to have this opportunity and to finally fulfill my dream.”

In addition to filming Maezawa, Hirano will also take part in human health and performance research on behalf of the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine. The studies will include collecting electrocardiogram (ECG) readings, taking part in a series of cognitive tests and using a portable auto-refractor device to collect sight data.

“I am excited to participate in this research as it will help scientists reduce health risks for future space explorers,” Hirano said in a statement.

The trio will return to Earth on Soyuz MS-20, completing the mission with a touchdown on the steppe of Kazakhstan on December 19, the report said.

Misurkin, 44, is now on his third spaceflight, having earlier served on the space station’s Expedition 35/36 and Expedition 53/54 crews. Prior to lifting off on Soyuz MS-20, Misurkin had already logged 334 days in space.

Soyuz MS-20 is Russia’s 66th Soyuz to launch for the ISS since 2000 and 149th to fly since 1967.
(IANS)