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Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa launching to space station next week

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa (right) poses for a crew photo with his video producer Yozo Hirano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin during training to launch on a Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station. liftoff is set for Dec. 8.
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa (right) poses for a crew photo with his video producer Yozo Hirano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin during training to launch on a Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station. liftoff is set for Dec. 8. (Image credit: Roscosmos)

Another pair of amateur astronauts is set to visit the International Space Station next month.

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, video producer Yozo Hirano and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Dec. 8, kicking off a 12-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Liftoff is scheduled for 2:38 a.m. EST (0738 GMT). You can watch it live at Space.com when the time comes, courtesy of Roscosmos, Russia's federal space agency.

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Maezawa booked the trip for himself and Hirano, who will document the flight, via Virginia-based company Space Adventures. Space Adventures has sent seven different paying customers to the orbiting lab to date, most recently in the fall of 2009, when Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberté made the journey. Misurkin will command the Soyuz.

However, it hasn't been 12 years since an amateur astronaut has been aboard the ISS — far from it. Russian film director Klim Shipenko and actor Yulia Peresild visited the orbiting lab for 10 days in October, to film parts of a movie called "The Challenge."

Shipenko and Peresild made the journey on a Soyuz, but their trip wasn't organized by Space Adventures.

The Maezawa-Hirano-Misurkin flight will be the first ISS Space Adventures trip that carries more than one space tourist. The company has not revealed how much Maezawa paid for each seat, but previous customers reportedly plunked down $20 million to $40 million for their flights.

The Russian Soyuz spacecraft that will carry Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, video producer Yozo Hirano and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin to the International Space Station undergoes pre-launch processing. Launch of the trio's mission is scheduled for Dec. 8, 2021. (Image credit: Roscosmos)

Maezawa has been keeping us posted on his preflight activities via Twitter. For example, on Nov. 19, he tweeted that he had arrived at Baikonur (opens in new tab). And on Saturday (Nov. 27), he posted a series of tweets outlining the "unusual training" he has been undergoing recently, which includes sleeping on an inclined bed, playing badminton every day and being spun around in a special chair.

"The spinning chair — almost feels like torture. Some cosmonauts say it's necessary, some say it's not. Either way, it's the hardest training ever done. Warning: eyes will be spinning just by watching," Maezawa wrote via Twitter Saturday (opens in new tab), where he posted a video of the spinning chair in action.

Maezawa will go much farther afield than the ISS a few years from now, if all goes according to plan. The billionaire, who founded the online fashion retailer Zozotown among other companies, has also booked a journey around the moon on SpaceX's Starship vehicle. That flight is tentatively targeted for 2023.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab)

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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com (opens in new tab) and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.