Space tourists return safely to Earth

MOSCOW (AP) – A Japanese billionaire, his producer and a Russian cosmonaut returned home safe and sound on Monday after spending 12 days on the International Space Station.

Fashion mogul Yusaku Maezawa, his producer Yozo Hirano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin made a soft landing in a Russian Soyuz capsule in the steppes of Kazakhstan at 9:13 a.m. about 90 miles southeast of the city of Zhezkazgan.

Low clouds prevented the deployment of search and rescue helicopters to the area, so rescue teams reached the landing site in all-terrain vehicles to assist the crew and conduct examinations medical. They reported that the trio were feeling good.

Later that day, they will be airlifted to Star City space flight preparation facilities outside of Moscow for post-flight checks and rehabilitation.

Maezawa, 46, and her producer Hirano, 36, were the first paying tourists to visit the space station since 2009. Misurkin was on his third space mission.

Speaking to The Associated Press last week in a live interview from the orbiting space station, Maezawa said that “once you’re in space you realize how worth it it is to live this incredible experience “.

Asked about reports he paid more than $ 80 million for the 12-day mission, Maezawa said he could not disclose the amount of the contract, but admitted he paid “roughly” this amount.

In October, Russian actor Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko spent 12 days on the station making the world’s first film in orbit, a project sponsored by Russian space company Roscosmos to help revive the image of space glory. from the country.

NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron and Mark Vande Hei remain at the station; Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Piotr Dubrovnik; and Matthias Maurer from the European Space Agency.

Speaking to the PA from orbit, Maezawa deflected criticism from those who questioned his decision to spend money on space travel instead of using it to help people return. on Earth, claiming that “those who criticize may be those who have never been to space.”

He said he felt “a bit of motion sickness” and that it was “a little difficult to sleep”, adding that future space tourists should be prepared to spend up to five days in his house. adapt to weightlessness.

Maezawa said he was happy with the length of his trip, saying “12 days was about perfect for me” to adjust to motion sickness and enjoy the rest of the flight.

After asking the audience for ideas before the flight, Maezawa compiled a list of 100 things to do in space, including playing certain sports inside the space station, such as badminton, table tennis. and golf.

Space Adventures, a Virginia-based company that organized its flight, previously sent seven other tourists to the space station between 2001 and 2009.

Maezawa made his fortune in fashion retail, launching Japan’s largest online fashion mall, Zozotown. Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at $ 1.9 billion.

The mogul has also booked a flyby around the moon aboard Elon Musk’s spacecraft and will be joined on this trip by eight contest winners. He said he plans to undertake this mission in 2023.

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