Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is currently in the International Space Station as a tourist, and this is the first self-financed space tourism trip that has been taken in over 10 years.
It looks like the era of space tourism is finally upon us—well, at least for the uber-rich.
Yusaku Maezawa, the space tourist
At a press conference the day before his take-off, Maezawa was not one to hold back his excitement. He said:
I'm excited, like a child before a class trip.
I really want to see the Earth from space, to experience zero gravity, to understand how space changes people, and to see this flight change me.
Maezawa, who is the founder of the online fashion website Zozotown, will be spending a total of 12 days on the station. As a billionaire, you can bet that he spent millions to finance a once-in-a-lifetime trip to space. The ticket to ISS aboard a Soyuz rocket would have come to at least 50 or 60 million dollars alone, and furthermore he was paying for the two people accompanying him on the trip as well—his assistant, Yozo Hirano, and the pilot, Russian cosmonaut Alexander Missourkine.
The three of them took off from the Russian cosmodrome in Baikonor, Kazakhstan and arrived at the ISS, as planned, on Wednesday (8 December) morning. On arrival, the billionaire tweeted:
Dreams come true.
Activities in space
Now that he’s getting comfortable in the ISS, what we’re wondering is how he’s going to spend the rest of his time in space. Will his presence shake up the routine of the astronauts who are conducting serious and groundbreaking research aboard the space station?
It seems quite possible since Maezawa asked his website’s subscribers to come up with ideas for unusual activities that he can do in zero gravity—and you can bet that the internet did not disappoint. Along the 100 activities that were selected were badminton, golf, and even making soap bubbles. That’s enough to create a little change in astronauts’ busy routines.
Contribution to science
While Maezawa will spend his time having fun on the ISS, his assistance has an agenda of his own.
Yozo Hirano will actually be participating in research aimed at understanding the impact of space travel on the human body. A team of scientists from the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) will be analysing the data on the changes induced by life in space, such as electrocardiogram activity, movement, sleep, heart rate, and blood oxygen saturation levels. TRISH’s executive director, Dorit Donoviel said:
The work we are doing to study the impact of space on the human body will help future space explorers to travel safely beyond Earth. TRISH is grateful to Mr Hirano for participating in this research to advance human space exploration.