Late on December 19, a Soyuz spaceship containing a Russian cosmonaut as well as two Japanese private astronauts landed on Earth, capping off a successful year for private human spaceflight. At 6:50 p.m. Eastern, the Soyuz MS-20 spaceship was undocked from the ISS (International Space Station), more than 11 days after its arrival. At 10:13 p.m. Eastern, it landed safely in Kazakhstan.
Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, as well as Japanese private astronauts Yusaku “MZ” Maezawa and Yozo Hirano, returned to Earth aboard the Soyuz. The three were sent to the station on the Soyuz rocket on December 8 in a journey arranged by Space Adventures, an American space tourism firm.
The billionaire owner of fashion brand Zozo, Maezawa, spent much of his time in space filming a series of documentaries about living on the station. Among those activities was a commercial for Uber Eats, in which Maezawa, costumed as a delivery guy, delivered Misurkin a bag of canned foods. Maezawa’s helper, Hirano, assisted in the production of the videos.
Despite episodes of space sickness and sleeping difficulties, Maezawa claimed he was enjoying his stay in space in a conversation with The Associated Press a few days after his arrival. “Once you’re in space, you understand how much this incredible experience is worth it,” he remarked.
“The successful completion of MZ’s trip is a watershed moment not only for him and Space Adventures but also for the commercial spaceflight sector as a whole and humanity’s future in space,” said Eric Anderson, Space Adventures’ chief executive. “MZ’s mission comes at the conclusion of a great year for space tourism, and it’s ready to usher in a new era of exploration.”
Four organizations completed 7 dedicated commercial human spaceflights this year. Two flights of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital spacecraft were completed, including the one in July that lifted Richard Branson over the 80-kilometer elevation that the firm and US government agencies consider as space for astronauts’ recognition purposes. Blue Origin completed three crewed flights of their New Shepard suborbital vehicle, the most recent of which sent 14 people to altitudes of over 100 kilometers on December 11. The Inspiration4 mission, which sent 4 people on a 3-day orbital ride, was carried out by SpaceX’s Crew Dragon in September.
The Soyuz MS-20 flight was the first private astronaut Soyuz journey to the International Space Station. It was also the first flight since 2009 that Space Adventures took passengers into space when the business was selling additional seats on Soyuz taxi trips to as well as from the station. Another of those frequent Soyuz taxi flights sent a Russian actress as well as a director to the station in October, where she spent more than a week filming parts for a movie.