Japanese Tycoon Takes Off for International Space Station

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
December 8, 2021 Updated: December 8, 2021

MOSCOW—A Japanese billionaire and his producer rocketed to space Wednesday for a 12-day mission at the International Space Station.

Fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa and producer Yozo Hirano, who plans to film his mission, blasted off for the International Space Station in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft along with Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin.

The trio lifted off as scheduled at 12:38 p.m. (0738 GMT) aboard Soyuz MS-20 from the Russia-leaded Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

Maezawa and Hirano are scheduled to spend 12 days in space. The two are thought to be the first self-paying tourists to visit the space station since 2009. The price of the trip hasn’t been disclosed.

“I would like to look at the Earth from space. I would like to experience the opportunity to feel weightlessness,” Maezawa said during a pre-flight news conference on Tuesday. “And I also have a personal expectation: I’m curious how the space will change me, how I will change after this space flight.”

Kazakhstan Russia Space Station
Yusaku Maezawa of Japan, member of the main crew of the new Soyuz mission to the International Space Station (ISS), gestures prior the launch at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on Dec. 8, 2021. (Pavel Kassin/Roscosmos Space Agency via AP)
Kazakhstan Russia Space Station
In a still from video released by the Roscosmos Space Agency, the Soyuz-2.1a rocket booster with Soyuz MS-20 space ship carrying Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, spaceflight participants Yusaku Maezawa and Yozo Hirano of Japan to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on Dec. 8, 2021. (Screenshot via NTD/Roscosmos Space Agency via AP)

A company that organized the flight said Maezawa compiled a list of 100 things to do in space after asking the public for ideas. The list includes “simple things about daily life to maybe some other fun activities, to more serious questions as well,” Space Adventures President Tom Shelley said.

“His intention is to try to share the experience of what it means to be in space with the general public,” Shelley told The Associated Press earlier this year.

Maezawa made his fortune in retail fashion, launching Japan’s largest online fashion mall, Zozotown. Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at $2 billion.

The tycoon has also booked a flyby around the moon aboard Elon Musk’s Starship that is tentatively scheduled for 2023. He’ll be joined on that trip by eight contest winners.