Moscow: A Japanese billionaire, his producer and a Russian cosmonaut departed the International Space Station and headed back to Earth, wrapping up the first visit by self-paying space tourists to the orbiting outpost in more than a decade.
Fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa, his producer Yozo Hirano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin boarded the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which undocked from the station at 2350 GMT (5.20 am IST) Sunday.
They were set to land in the steppes of Kazakhstan at 9.13 am (8.43 am IST) Monday about 150 kilometers southeast of the city of Zhezkazgan.
Maezawa, 46, and his 36-year-old producer were the first self-paying tourists to visit the space station since 2009.
Speaking to The Associated Press last week in a live interview from the orbiting space station, Maezawa said that ”once you are in space, you realize how much it is worth it by having this amazing experience.” Asked about reports claiming that he paid over USD 80 million for a 12-day mission, Maezawa said he couldn’t disclose the contract sum but admitted that he paid ”pretty much” that amount.
In October, Russian actor Yulia Peresild and film director Klim Shipenko spent 12 days on the station to make the world’s first movie in orbit, a project sponsored by Russia’s space corporation Roscosmos to help burnish the nation’s space glory.
Maezawa made his fortune in retail fashion, launching Japan’s largest online fashion mall, Zozotown. Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at USD 1.9 billion.
Staying behind at the station are NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron and Mark Vande Hei; Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov; and Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency.