ZHEZKAZGAN, Kazakhstan (Reuters) – Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa was set to return to earth on Monday after a 12-day journey into space, a voyage he said he saw as a dry run for his planned trip around the moon with 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, was scheduled to land at 0313 GMT in a different location on the Kazakh steppe.
Maezawa, a space enthusiast, made the trip in a Soyuz spacecraft and became the first space tourist to travel to the International Space Station (ISS) in more than a decade.
He will likely return to snowy conditions on earth, with precipitation and sub-zero temperatures forecast at the scheduled landing site about 150 km (93 miles) south east of the town of Zhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan.
Maezawa will become the first private passenger on the SpaceX moon trip in 2023, as commercial firms including 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.
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.
(Reporting by Shamil Zhumatov; Writing by Alexander Marrow, Editing by William Maclean)