Two space tourists have landed safely back on Earth after a 12-day stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Billionaire entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa and video producer Yozo Hirano, both from Japan, returned home aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft along with veteran cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin.
The trio undocked from the ISS at 6:50 p.m. ET on Sunday, December 19, landing in Kazakhstan just over three hours later at around 10:10 p.m. ET (9:10 a.m. local time).
— International Space Station (@Space_Station) December 20, 2021
Shortly after landing, a livestream showed a smiling Maezawa emerging from the spacecraft along with his two fellow passengers.
During his space adventure, Maezawa, who made his fortune in online fashion retail, posted numerous tweets and videos documenting some of his experiences aboard the station 250 miles up. The content included everything from a stunning time-lapse of a complete orbit of Earth to an instructional video about space toilets.
Maezawa’s mission, which covered a total of 4.6 million miles and 189 orbits of Earth, marked the first self-paid trip to the ISS since 2009. Precisely how much it cost hasn’t been revealed, though Maezawa recently hinted that he forked out around $80 million for the unique voyage.
In October, the ISS hosted two Russian filmmakers for a short stay, but that excursion was financed by several media companies in a deal with Roscosmos, the Russian space agency that also organized this latest mission.
The recent tourism trips mark renewed efforts by space agencies to commercialize the ISS to raise funds for further exploration and research in space.
A NASA mission early next year, organized by space tourism company Axiom, will use SpaceX hardware to transport three tourists to the space station for a 10-day stay.
As for Maezawa, he’ll now be turning his attention to a far more ambitious mission involving a flyby of the moon. SpaceX is hoping to conduct the flight in the coming years, with Maezawa having already done a deal with Elon Musk’s spaceflight company for a seat on the spacecraft.
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