Japanese Billionaire Finishes Up Space Station Mission With Online Flourishes

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and two crewmates have returned to Earth after an 11-day mission to the International Space Station that was marked by online innovations including an NFT drop and a lottery giveaway.

Maezawa, his production assistant Yozo Hirano, and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin took a 3.5-hour ride from the station on a Soyuz craft, climaxing in a touchdown amid the steppes of Kazakhstan around the appointed time of 0313 GMT (9:13 a.m. local time) Dec. 20.

After the landing, the three spacefliers were helped out of the capsule and given medical checks.

The short-duration stay was the first private astronaut trip to the space station brokered by Virginia-based Space Adventures in 12 years. In an interview with The Associated Press, Maezawa said reports that he paid more than $80 million for the adventure were “pretty much” accurate.

“Once you are in space, you realize how much it is worth it by having this amazing experience,” he told AP. “And I believe that this amazing experience will lead to something else.”

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NASA Gives Axiom Space Another Opening to Fly Private Astronauts to Space Station

John Shoffner and Peggy Whitson in SpaceX Crew Dragon simulator

Even though Texas-based Axiom Space hasn’t yet sent its first crew of customers to the International Space Station, NASA is giving the company an opportunity to send a second crew, potentially just months later.

NASA says it will begin negotiations with Axiom on a space station mission scheduled sometime between the autumn of 2022 and the late spring of 2023. Under a pricing policy laid out earlier this year, NASA would charge $10 million to support each private astronaut during their stay in orbit, plus extra charges for food and supplies.

It’ll cost tens of millions more for the ride to the space station and back. The three customers who have signed up for Axiom’s first space station mission in February are reportedly paying $55 million each, which includes the fare for a trip in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule.

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‘I’m Truly Happy’: Japanese Billionaire Yusaku Maezawa Floats Into Space Station

Space station crew at welcoming ceremony

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has begun his first space adventure — an 11-day visit to the International Space Station that could serve as the warmup for a round-the-moon trip to come.

Maezawa, production assistant Yozo Hirano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin rode a Soyuz capsule into orbit from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with launch coming at 0738 GMT December 8 (12:38 p.m. local time, 2:38 a.m. EST).

Hours later, the Soyuz docked with the station, and the trio floated inside to meet the orbital outpost’s seven other spacefliers. Maezawa was all smiles as he greeted family and friends back on Earth over a video link.

Before liftoff, the 46-year-old entrepreneur and art collector said he was looking forward to his journey.

“I feel excited like an elementary student waiting for a school trip,” he said at a news conference. “I want to see the Earth from space, float in zero gravity, and see how I will change through this experience. I was blessed with this opportunity, and I’m truly happy I can go.”

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Mother and Daughter Win Tickets for Suborbital Space Ride With Virgin Galactic

SpaceShipTwo in flight

A wellness coach from Antigua and her daughter are getting tickets for a suborbital space trip, thanks to the latest in a line of out-of-this-world sweepstakes going back 20 years. And although not a single spaceflight sweepstakes winner has flown yet, there’s still significant value to such contests, financially and otherwise.

“Being able to give people of all ages and backgrounds equal access to space, and in turn, the opportunity to lead and inspire others back on Earth, is what Virgin Galactic has been building towards for the past two decades,” Virgin Galactic’s billionaire founder, Richard Branson, said in a Nov. 24 news release.

Branson himself broke the good news to Keisha Schahaff at her home on the Caribbean island of Antigua. Schahaff had entered a contest arranged in collaboration with the Omaze online sweepstakes platform and a nonprofit group called Space for Humanity this summer. She ended up winning the random drawing. Her grand prize? Two tickets for a ride on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity rocket plane, plus terrestrial travel expenses.

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Virgin Galactic Wins FAA’s OK to Fly Space Passengers: Which Billionaire Will Go First?

SpaceShipTwo in flight

Virgin Galactic says it’s received the Federal Aviation Administration’s go-ahead to fly customers on its SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, marking a significant step in a commercial rollout that could also feature dueling space billionaires.

The FAA’s clearance came in the form of an update to Virgin Galactic’s five-year-old commercial space transportation operator license, the company said in a news release. The upgrade was based on an analysis of the results from Virgin Galactic’s most recent suborbital test flight, conducted in May at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

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Virgin Galactic Sends Three People to the Edge of Space. Flights with Paying Customers Around the Corner Now

Virgin Galactic Makes Space for Second Time in Ten Weeks with Three On Board. Image Credit: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic has reached another milestone in their fight test program. The VSS Unity spacecraft carried a third crew member on board, in its fifth rocket-powered test flight. It was the second time that the spacecraft reached space.

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Elon Musk Reveals New SpaceX Spacesuit

SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk made public the first official photo of the commercial space company’s spacesuit design with a post on Instagram today. He indicated he’ll have more details soon and said this first ‘reveal’ isn’t just a prototype design; it’s a real, working spacesuit.

“Worth noting that this actually works (not a mockup)” Musk said. “Already tested to double vacuum pressure.”

The person inside the suit – in what looks to be a computer generated photo – looks much like Musk himself, although the face is rather hard to make out.

Following the design of many previous spacesuits, it comes in white. Musk said in designing the suit, it was “incredibly hard to balance esthetics and function. Easy to do either separately.”

There has been some discussion on social media about the orientation of the flag, as it appears to many to be “backward.” However, this follows US military custom of flags on uniforms, positioned on the right shoulder in this same orientation, with stars facing forward. This gives the effect of the flag “flying in the breeze” as the person in the uniform/spacesuit moves forward.

These are the spacesuits that will be worn by the astronauts who make the first flights on the Dragon Capsule to the International Space Station as part of the commercial crew program. The target for the first humans aboard Dragon is next year, mid-2018.

If you are looking for a spacesuit that has a little more pop of color — as well as a heart-felt mission — NASA also held a special news conference from the International Space Station today revealing a colorful new spacesuit created by children around the world who are suffering from cancer.

The Space Suit Art Project is a collaboration between NASA, spacesuit maker ILC Dover and children in hospitals around the world. This suit, called Unity, is the third in a series of suits. The suits are made of colorful patches made by young cancer patients, giving the kids an opportunity to be part of a lasting and out-of-this-world project.

Astronaut Jack Fischer donned the special (non-functioning) spacesuit and said it was tricky to get into, just like a real spacesuit. But this suit, Fischer said, “gives you the honor to represent the bravest kids in the world, who put it together.” Fischer’s daughter Bethany, is a cancer survivor.

Retro Travel Posters Show Us The Future

Visitors to Jupiter view the Jovian auroras from balloons. Image: NASA/JPL.

One of the greatest things about being a space enthusiast is all of the discoveries that come out on an almost daily basis. One of the saddest things about being a space enthusiast is all of the discoveries and destinations that are so close, just beyond the horizon of our lifespan.

Will we colonize other planets? Sure, but most of us living will be gone by then. Will we spend time in glorious, gleaming space habitats? Obviously, but we’ll just be epitaphs by then. Sentient, alien species that gift us faster-than-light travel and other wonders? Maybe, but not before my bucket list has its final item checked off.

Citizen space travel? Hmmmm, tantalizingly within reach.

But now, new retro style posters from NASA, designed by the team at Invisible Creature, are making us feel nostalgic about things that haven’t even happened yet, and are helping us leave behind gloomy thoughts of being born at the wrong time.

The Grand Tour. Image: NASA/JPL
The Grand Tour. Image: NASA/JPL

The Grand Tour celebrates a time when our probes toured the planets, using gravity assist to propel them on their missions.

“Grandpa, do you remember the Grand Tour, when spacecraft used gravity assist to visit other worlds?”

“I sure do. Gravity assist. Those were the days. Swooping so close to Jupiter, you could feel the radiation killing your hair follicles. Only to be sling-shotted on to the next planet.”

“But why didn’t you just use a quantum drive to bend space time and appear at your destination?”

“Quantum drives! Those things ain’t natural. And neither is bending space-time. Give me a good old-fashioned chemical rocket any time.”

“Oh Grandpa.”

Visit Historic Mars. Image: NASA/JPL
Visit Historic Mars. Image: NASA/JPL

Visit the Historic Sites of Mars recalls a time when space pioneers colonized and terraformed Mars.

“Grandpa, what was Mars like in the Early Days?”

“You mean before it was terraformed? Very tough times.”

“Because conditions were so difficult? And food was hard to grow?”

“No. Because of the protesters.”

“Protesters? On Mars?”

“Yup. Every time we found a good spot for a Bacterial Production Facility (BPF), it seemed like there was an expired old rover in the way. The protesters didn’t think we should move ’em. Part of our heritage.”

“So what did you do Grandpa?”

“We created a network of computers that everybody would stare at all day. After that, nobody noticed what we did anymore.”

“Oh Grandpa.”

Visit Beautiful Southern Enceladus. Image: NASA/JPL
Visit Beautiful Southern Enceladus. Image: NASA/JPL

Visit Beautiful Southern Enceladus invites vacationers to visit Saturn’s sixth largest moon to view the ice geysers there.

“Grandpa, did you ever visit Enceladus?”

“I sure did. A beautiful, haunting place.”

“Was it scary? With all of the ice geysers erupting unpredictably?”

“On no. I always knew when one was going to erupt.”

“What? How did you know?”

“My arthritis would flare up.”

“Oh Grandpa.”

Other Posters

NASA has a growing collection of other posters. You can see them here.

SpaceX has their own posters, which you can see here. They also have cool t-shirts with the same designs.

How Long Does It Take To Get To The Moon?

Back in 2008, Richard Branson outlined his vision for Virgin Galactic’s future. Once tourists are taken into Earth orbit, it seems possible that space hotels could be developed for longer stop-overs in space. He then went on to mention that short “sight-seeing” tours to the Moon could be started from these ultimate hotels. If we are to make travel to the Moon routine enough to send tourists there, the trip would need to be as short as possible.

So how long is the commute from the Earth to the Moon anyway? Human beings and machines have made that trip on several occasions. And while some took a very long time, others were astonishingly fast. Let’s review the various missions and methods, and see which offers the most efficient and least time-consuming means of transit.

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