Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and two fellow space travelers have safely returned to Earth on Monday as their Russian Soyuz spacecraft landed on the Kazakh steppe.
Meazawa, a 46-year-old fashion tycoon, spent 12 days on the International Space Station with his assistant Yozo Hirano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin.
The trio reportedly landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 9:13 a.m. local time, some 92 miles (148 kilometers) southeast of the city of Zhezkazgan, in snowy weather.
“This morning, December 20, 2021, the descent vehicle of the Soyuz MS-20 manned spacecraft, which undocked three hours earlier from the International Space Station, landed at a design point in Kazakhstan,” Russian space agency Rosmoscos said in a statement.
Rosmoscos also shared a video on its website showing the Russian recovery team reaching the landing site in all-terrain vehicles, helping Maezawa and Hirano out of the spacecraft.
All three of them underwent a medical check-up and were “feeling well,” Roscosmos stated.
The trio blasted off to the International Space Station at 12:38 p.m. on Dec. 8. Maezawa and his 36-year-old producer, Hirano, were the first self-paying tourists to visit the space station since 2009, whilst Misurkin was on his third space mission.
During their 12-day journey in space, Maezawa documented their daily routine in the spacecraft and shared several clips on his YouTube channel showing how he ate Japanese snacks and slept in zero gravity.
In 2018, Maezawa said he would ride SpaceX’s Starship with a group of artists free of charge, but in March this year, he made a surprise announcement that he would invite eight people from all walks of life to join him in his mission to space, which is slated to take place in 2023.
“It will be 10 to 12 people in all, but I will be inviting eight people to come along on the ride,” he said in a YouTube video.
Maezawa explained that his initial plan to invite artists “has since evolved” as he realized that his definition of an artist was “ambiguous,” noting that “every single person who is doing something creative could be called an artist.”
He then launched a “Dear Moon” website for applicants to pre-register through March 14 this year. Applicants were selected based on two criteria: They must be able to push the envelope to help other people and better society in some way, and are “willing to support other crew members who share similar aspirations.”
“I will pay for the entire journey. I have bought all the seats, so it will be a private ride,” Maezawa remarked.
When asked about reports claiming that he paid over $80 million for the 12-day mission, Meazawa said he couldn’t disclose the contract sum but admitted that he paid “pretty much” that amount.
Space Adventures, a Virginia-based company that organized Maezawa’s flight, previously sent seven other tourists to the space station between 2001 and 2009.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.