The AP Interview: Japanese Tourist Says Space Travel “Amazing”

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MOSCOW (AP) – A Japanese space tourist on Monday dismissed criticism from those who questioned his decision to pay a fortune for a trip to the International Space Station, saying the “incredible” experience was worth it.

Speaking to The Associated Press in a live interview from the orbiting space outpost, billionaire fashion mogul Yusaku Maezawa said that while he had imagined what his mission would look like before the flight, he was struck by the reality of space travel.

“Once you are in space you realize how much it is worth having this amazing experience,” he told the AP in the first TV interview since arriving at the station. . “And I believe this incredible experience will lead to something else.”

Maezawa, 46, and his producer Yozo Hirano, 36, are the first paying tourists to visit the space station since 2009. Asked about reports he paid more than $ 80 million for a 12-day mission, Maezawa said he could not He did not disclose the amount of the contract, but admitted that he had paid “roughly” that amount.

He deflected criticism from those who questioned his decision to spend money on his space travel instead of using it to help people get back to Earth, saying “those who criticize may be those who have never been to space “.

“The most memorable moments were when I saw the International Space Station from Soyuz just before docking and when we entered after docking,” he said.

He admitted that space tourism is now primarily aimed at the super-rich, but added that those embarking on space travel need to be prepared for other challenges.

“Yes, it is still quite expensive, but it is not just a question of money,” he told the AP. “It takes time for your body to adjust to this environment and emergency training takes at least a few months. So, honestly speaking, it is only accessible to those who have the time and are in good physical shape and those who can afford it. But we don’t know if that will still be the case in 10 years, 20 years. “

Maezawa told the AP he was experiencing “a bit of motion sickness” and “a little hard to sleep”, adding that future space tourists should be aware of the need to spend up to five. days to adapt to motion sickness in space.

He recognized that taking a nap is always a challenge.

“I don’t sleep well, to be honest. A sleeping bag was provided but it’s too hot so I don’t use it, ”he said.

He was happy with the length of his trip.

“Twelve days was pretty much fine with me,” Maezawa added. “I’m recovering from motion sickness so that I can take advantage of the remaining days. I come back on the 20th and start to miss Japan. Once back, I want to have some sushi! ”

Maezawa and Hirano, who were filming his mission, took off Wednesday for the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin.

Space Adventures, a Virginia-based company that organized its flight, had already sent seven other tourists to the space station in 2001-2009.

Maezawa expressed his deep admiration for the space station crew. In addition to Misurkin, they include NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and Mark Vande Hei; Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Piotrevo; and Matthias Maurer from the European Space Agency.

“They are like superheroes saving Earth,” he said. “Not only are they ahead of the latest scientific advancements, but they are also physically and mentally trained, and very courageous. I can feel firsthand how the human can develop so far, and our lives depend on these people – how that changes in the future. I respect them a lot.

He and Hirano will return to Earth with Misurkin on Sunday.

Before the flight, Maezawa had compiled a list of 100 things to do in space during his mission after asking the audience for ideas.

“I look forward to playing sports inside the space station – badminton, table tennis and golf,” he told the AP. “What I don’t look forward to are the toilet stuff.”

Maezawa made his fortune in fashion retail, launching Japan’s largest online fashion mall, Zozotown. Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at $ 1.9 billion.

The mogul has also booked a flyby around the moon aboard Elon Musk’s spacecraft, which is tentatively scheduled for the next few years. He will be accompanied on this trip by eight competition winners.

“I plan to go to the moon in 2023 – we are in the final stages of selecting the 8 people for the Dear Moon project,” he said.


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