ZHEZKAZGAN, KAZAKHSTAN – Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa returned to Earth on Monday (Dec 20) after a 12-day journey into space, ending a practice run for his planned trip around the moon with Mr Elon Musk’s SpaceX in 2023.
The 46-year-old fashion magnate and art collector, who successfully launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Dec 8 along with his assistant Yozo Hirano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, landed on the Kazakh steppe.
Mr Maezawa, a space enthusiast, made the trip in a Soyuz spacecraft and became the first space tourist to travel to the International Space Station in more than a decade.
He returned to snowy conditions on earth, with precipitation and sub-zero temperatures forecast at the scheduled landing site about 150km southeast of the town of Zhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan.
Mr Maezawa will become the first private passenger on the SpaceX moon trip in 2023, as commercial firms including Mr Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin usher in a new age of space travel for wealthy clients.
The billionaire, who sold his online fashion business Zozo to SoftBank in 2019, is searching for eight people who will join him in his moon voyage in 2023, requiring applicants to pass medical tests and an interview.
Mr Maezawa has become a household name in Japan through his penchant for private jets and supercars, cash giveaways to Twitter followers and celebrity girlfriends in a country known for its conformist, corporate culture.
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