A Russian Suyuz rocket with a Japanese billionaire on board took off for the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday from the Baykonur cosmodrome, the launch site in Kazakhstan.
The space journey heralds the return of Russian space tourism.
Yusaku Maezawa (46), who made a fortune from online fashion, took off at 8.38 am along with his assistant Yozo Hirano and Russian cosmonaut Aleksandr Misurkin. The two Japanese tourists will spend 12 days in the Russian section of the space station.
“I’m very interested in what it’s like to be in space. So I plan to find out in person and share my impressions with the world on my YouTube channel,” the Japanese said earlier this year, according to the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The Japanese started training for about three months in June.
Space Adventures, an American company specializing in space tourism, emphasized in May when the trip was announced that for the first time, two space tourists are travelling on the same spaceship at the same time. The company has been working with Roscosmos since the flight of the first space tourist, American Dennis Tito, in 2001.
So far, seven space tourists have visited the space station and paid for their flight themselves. Yusaku Maezawa will be the eighth and the first from Japan. The last space tourist to be sent into space by Russia was Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberté in 2009.