Japanese Billionaire Launches into Space

Credit: Unsplash

Yusaku Maezawa is on his way to the ISS.

Space sure has been getting busy lately. One after another, billionaires and celebrities have been launching to the stars, either spending a brief period in orbit or visiting the crew of the International Space Station. Most of these high-profile launches have been through western space agencies like NASA, SpaceX, and Blue Origin, but the US isn’t the only country looking to get on board the space tourism bandwagon.

This morning, Russian space agency Roscosmos, returning from a 12-year hiatus from the industry with the backing of US company Space Adventures, launched a Baikonur cosmodrome up to the ISS. Their patron is Japanese fashion tycoon and major space enthusiast Yusaku Maezawa, joined by production assistant Yozo Hirano. These two will be spending a couple of weeks on the station alongside its current seven-person crew, where they’ll be engaging in a variety of activities and experiments for Maezawa’s personal YouTube channel. Maezawa is packing a list of at least 100 things he’d like to do, including a zero-gravity badminton tournament.

“It’s been 12 years. We’ve had to be very patient. We’ve had to be very creative. So, this is the culmination of a lot of effort from a lot of different people,” Tom Shelley, president of Space Adventures, told AFP.

Despite not conducting any launches since 2009, Roscosmos hasn’t been sitting on their laurels. With the recent successful space tourism launches, they’ve already begun commissioning Soyuz vessels for more trips of their own. “We will not give this niche to the Americans. We are ready to fight for it,” Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin told reporters after the launch.

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