Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa arrived at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday for training ahead of his flight to the International Space Station on a Russian-operated spacecraft.
Maezawa’s mission — set for departure on December 8 — will be the first to take space tourists to the ISS in over a decade.
The 45-year-old tycoon is the founder of Japan’s largest online fashion mall and the country’s 30th richest man, according to Forbes.
He will travel to the ISS for a 12-day mission with his assistant Yozo Hirano where Maezawa plans to document his journey for his YouTube channel.
They will travel to the orbital station in a Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft with Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin.
The trio arrived at the Russia-leased cosmodrome on Friday “to complete pre-launch training”, said Russia’s space agency Roscosmos which has organised the flight together with US company Space Adventures.
Maezawa will be the first space tourist to travel to the ISS with Roscosmos since Canadian Guy Laliberte, co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, in 2009.
Maezawa’s mission rounds off a year that has seen several space journeys completed by non-professional astronauts and more players emerging in the market.
SpaceX made history this year by sending the first all-civilian crew around the Earth’s orbit in a mission called Inspiration4.
Blue Origin, the company of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and Virgin Galatic of billionaire Richards Branson offered the experience of a few minutes of weightlessness before coming back to Earth.
Roscosmos in October sent an actress and director to the ISS who spent 12 days on the station shooting scenes for the first movie shot in orbit.
Moonshot: Japan recruits first new astronauts in 13 years
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 19, 2021 – It’s one small step for Japan, but one giant opportunity for would-be space cadets: the country is recruiting new astronauts for the first time in over a decade and applicants no longer have to hold a science degree.
Women are strongly encouraged to put themselves forward for the job, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said, as all seven of the nation’s current astronauts are men.
Successful applicants, who must be Japanese, will be trained and sent on missions — potentially to the Moon, the Lunar Gateway or the International Space Station.
“We want to establish a (recruiting) system that matches the current time,” JAXA’s Kazuyoshi Kawasaki said at a media briefing.
“Previously we limited candidates to those with a natural science degree, but many of us agreed to make it not a requirement.”
However, written exams will include university-level questions on science, technology, engineering and maths, with the applicants’ English ability also tested.
JAXA said it will accept applications between December 20 and March 4 — the first time it has offered positions for rookie astronauts in 13 years.
This time around, they are looking to recruit “a few” astronauts with at least three years of workplace experience.
There is no age requirement or gender quotas and the agency has lowered its height requirement to 149.5 centimetres (4.9 feet).
One of Japan’s current crew is Akihiko Hoshide, 52, who returned to Earth from the International Space Station earlier this month in a SpaceX craft.Internet Explorer Channel Network