A Japanese billionaire, his producer and a Russian cosmonaut safely returned to Earth on Monday after spending 12 days on the International Space Station.
Fashion tycoon 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. (0313 GMT) about 148 kilometers (about 92 miles) southeast of the city of Zhezkazgan.
After their capsule landed, all-terrain vehicles carrying Russian rescue teams deployed to the site to assist the crew and conduct a medical check-up.
Maezawa, 46, and his 36-year-old producer Hirano were the first self-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 are in space, you realize how much it is worth it by having this amazing experience.”
Asked about reports claiming that he paid over $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 reputation for space glory.
Maezawa made his fortune in retail fashion, launching Japan’s largest online fashion mall, Zozotown. Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at $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.