Russia is again flying space tourists to the ISS

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Russia flies billionaire to the ISS

For most of them, a flight into space will remain a dream. Two space tourists from Japan have now treated themselves to a stay on the ISS.

Cosmonaut Alexander Missurkin (M) and the Japanese space flight participants Yusaku Maezawa (r) and Yozo Hirano (left) before the start of the Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft. © Pavel Kassin / Roscosmos Space Agency / AP / dpa

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Baikonur. For the first time in twelve years, space tourists take off for the International Space Station in a Russian Soyuz rocket. The Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and his assistant Yozo Hirano are due to take off on Wednesday (8.38 a.m.) from the Baikonur spaceport in the steppe of Kazakhstan in Central Asia. On board the Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft is the cosmonaut Alexander Missurkin.

After more than six hours of flight time, the three should reach the ISS. According to the Russian space agency Roskosmos, the space tourists will stay there for twelve days.

Private individuals on board the station around 400 kilometers above the ground have been rare in recent years. With the two Japanese, the number of tourists transported by Roskosmos rises to nine. One reason for the low number is that the Russian missiles took US astronauts to the ISS for many years. In addition, the costs of such trips are still immense.

The Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa (M) paid a lot of money to fulfill his dream of space flight.

The Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa (M) paid a lot of money to fulfill his dream of space flight. © Pavel Kassin / Roscosmos Space Agency / AP / dpa

“We’re talking tens of millions of US dollars,” said Tom Shelley, head of the US company Space Adventures, which specializes in space tourism. According to him, between 44 million and 53 million euros are due per person and flight. “It sounds very expensive, but ultimately it’s a priceless opportunity.” Space tourism will therefore remain something for the very rich for the foreseeable future.

It is not known how expensive the flight to the ISS will be for the two Japanese. According to Forbes magazine, 46-year-old Maezawa is one of the 30 richest people in Japan with private assets of around 1.7 billion euros. He started shipping CDs in 1998. The entrepreneur later made his living selling clothes on the Internet through the Zozotown website, which was founded in 2004.

Maezawa recently made a name for himself as a space enthusiast. He documented his three-month training to prepare for the time in weightlessness in the short message service Twitter. “It’s the toughest training ever.” He posted a picture of himself on a constantly rotating chair. “The swivel chair – almost feels like torture.”

“I have a list of a hundred things I want to do on the station, like play badminton,” he said recently. He is already followed by 755,000 users on YouTube. In the social networks he wants to report on his impressions in weightlessness.

For the eccentric fashion entrepreneur and art collector, staying in the space station is just a first step towards much more ambitious plans. He probably wants to fly around the moon on a private SpaceX flight in 2023 and had sought companions for it in a worldwide appeal.

The hustle and bustle of space tourism should come in handy for Russia. Roskosmos wants to bring more private individuals into space in the future – and above all earn money with them. Since the US space agency Nasa has been flying its astronauts to the ISS in private spaceships, spaces have become free in the Russian Soyuz capsules. A Russian film team that flew to the ISS for a short shoot attracted attention in the fall.

New Year gifts on board

The USA also made for spectacular flights: Almost two months ago, “Star Trek” icon William Shatner – the former “Captain Kirk” actor flew into space. The 90-year-old Canadian actor went on a 10-minute excursion on board a “New Shepard” space capsule from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company.

He thinks that tourist flights into space will be easier in the next few years, Maezawa said the day before his departure, according to the Russian state agency Ria Novositi. “Our job is to show how difficulties can be overcome.”

The cosmonauts of the ISS are likely to look forward to the spaceship for another reason: According to Roskosmos, there are New Year’s gifts on board. Among them are letters from families and friends and “homemade delicacies”. The luggage, which weighs 162 kilograms, also includes materials for research and experiments, hygiene articles, food and 13 kilograms of fresh fruit. (dpa)

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