Spaceflyer Yusaku Maezawa makes space history

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Mr Maezawa’s space trip ends a longstanding campaign by his nonprofit. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has arrived at the International Space Station, where he is about to make…

Spaceflyer Yusaku Maezawa makes space history

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Mr Maezawa’s space trip ends a longstanding campaign by his nonprofit.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has arrived at the International Space Station, where he is about to make history.

The founder of clothing company Zozotown in Japan became the first paying passenger to visit the ISS with a private capsule in March 2017.

With him is Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, from the Russia-led ISS programme.

“This is one of the amazing events that I’ve seen in my life,” Mr Maezawa told reporters before heading for the ISS.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The pair have settled into the space station’s starboard module

Mr Maezawa’s trip is the end of a long campaign by his towing Foundation, which turns 10 in December, to visit the ISS.

He pledged a quarter of his personal fortune to the Foundation’s 100-year space project, which is now recruiting new members.

The point of the trip is to commission Japan’s first Japanese-made space shuttle to return space tourists to Earth.

“Space flights are able to showcase a nation’s culture, independence and achievements,” Mr Maezawa said.

“That’s the most important thing for me as an international traveller.”

Many of the 500 astronauts who visited the ISS were of national or international descent.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption A view from the starboard module shows the space station looming overhead

After arriving in Earth orbit in the Russian Soyuz rocket, the capsule that carries the two of them glided to a docking port on the space station’s far left orbital section on Tuesday.

Mr Maezawa, who turns 47 next week, has toured Europe and the United States before, but was prohibited from embarking on space flights under his agreement with Nasa.

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NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold joined the second member of the crew, cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, in the station’s airlock as Mr Maezawa took off from the safety of the ISS’s Zvezda service module.

Warmly greeted by Japanese astronaut Kanai, they also raised flags of the two countries as they made their ascent to the orbital outpost at 17:35 local time.

They made the journey into space at an altitude of 220 miles (354 km), travelling at about 17,500 miles per hour (28,163 kph).

Mr Maezawa and Mr Kanai are due to stay aboard the station until 2 September.

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