The next ISS crew, including two Japanese space tourists, arrived at the Russian Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday, before takeoff to the International Space Station scheduled for December, said the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos). Russian cosmonaut Alexander Missurkin, Japanese billionaire Yusaki Maezawa and his assistant Yozo Hirano, who left the Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow in the morning, will train "
" for two and a half weeks in Baikonur and to carry out medical examinations there, according to a press release from Roscosmos. Saturday, they will in particular board for the first time in the Soyuz spacecraft which is to transport them to the ISS in early December, and test its onboard systems, according to the same source.
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The launch of the Soyuz is scheduled for December 8 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, in the Kazakh steppes.
This take-off marks Russia's return to space tourism, as a race has started in the sector involving, in addition to Moscow, billionaires Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos.
Yusaki Maezawa's trip, organized by Roscosmos with his American partner Space Adventure, involves a 12-day stay aboard the ISS.
In mid-October, Maezawa told reporters that he had a "
list of almost 100 tasks
" that he wanted to accomplish aboard the station, including playing badminton in space.
Resumption of tourist expeditions
The eccentric Japanese billionaire, 45, who made his fortune in online fashion, has planned other trips: he wants to take eight people to accompany him around the moon in 2023 with SpaceX, the aerospace company of Elon Musk.
The Russian cosmonaut who will accompany Maezawa and his assistant will be the mission commander, but since the capsule can only accommodate three people, he will be deprived of an engineer.
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The resumption by Roscosmos of these tourist expeditions to the ISS comes as Russia lost its monopoly on manned flights in 2020 with the entry into the running of Elon Musk's SpaceX company.
Russia has thus lost the revenues represented by the seats purchased by the American and European space agencies.
Roscosmos and Space Adventures had already collaborated between 2001 and 2009 to send extremely wealthy entrepreneurs into space eight times.
The most recent was the founder of Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian Guy Laliberté.