You may know him as the Japanese billionaire who partnered with Elon Musk to launch the #dearMoon project which will send himself and eight other civilians on a multi-day trip around the moon. Today Yusaku Maezawa made headlines again when it was announced that he would be the first space tourist to visit the International Space Station (ISS) since 2009.
Space Adventures, the company that coordinates such efforts, made the official announcement on the company’s website. In it, they say that Maezawa and his production assistant, Yozo Hirano, plan to fly on the Russian Soyuz flight MS-20 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on December 8, 2021. The two will spend 12 days in space before returning to earth on or about December 20, 2021.
“We are excited for Maezawa-san, and we are honored to have enabled this opportunity for him to fly to space,” said Eric Anderson, Chairman and CEO of Space Adventures, Inc. “He will be flying on the respected Soyuz spacecraft, visiting the space station as have our previous space flight participant (SFP) clients. This is the first time two SFPs will fly together, and the first tourist mission to the ISS in a decade!”
As mentioned, this spaceflight – whether it happens on December 8 or shortly thereafter – is notable for several reasons. First, Maezawa and Hirano will be the first space tourists to visit the ISS since 2009 when Canadian Guy Laliberté (cofounder of Cirque du Soleil) spent 12 days there.
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Second, it is the first time that two of three seats aboard the Russian Soyuz capsule will be taken by tourists; the third seat will be occupied by cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin. Misurkin has been to space three times already and clocked nearly a year in total beyond earth’s atmosphere.
“I’m so curious ‘what’s life like in space’? [sic] So, I am planning to find out on my own and share with the world on my YouTube channel,” said Yusaku Maezawa.
Maezawa and his crew will begin approximately three months of spaceflight training in June at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. Fans and followers can expect to start seeing Youtube videos shortly thereafter.
After this flight, Maezawa will likely re-focus on the #dearMoon project which has been in the process of screening applicants for an anticipated 2023 launch. Following that spaceflight, Maezawa will be the only space tourist to have visited space twice.
As others have commented, it takes very deep pockets to visit space once (while generally unconfirmed, past space tourists have paid between $20 million and $35 million per person for 8-12 days in space). While it hasn’t been reported how much Maezawa paid SpaceX to set up the #dearMoon project, this flight will likely be in that range – times two for himself and his assistant.
While space tourism seems destined to remain the domain of the ultra-wealthy for now, at least Maezawa plans to share his experience on social media so the rest of us on earth can follow along.