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T Akiyama, April 14, 1993, "The Pleasure of Spaceflight", A comment presented at JRS Space Tourism Study Conference held on April 14, 1993. Edited and translated into English from taped transcript originally in Japanese. Originally published in the Journal of Space Technology and Science, Vol.9 No.1 '93 spring, pp.21-23.
Also downloadable from pleasure of spaceflight.shtml

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The Pleasure of Spaceflight
Toyohiro Akiyama
1. Introduction

I was introduced as the first fare-paying passenger to travel to space. But I would like to add a few comments about this view. In the case of the Space Shuttle, satellite companies that are the customers pay for Shuttle missions to launch their satellites, which usually include expenses required for payload specialists who go to space accompanying the satellites. In my case, the main mission that I accompanied was a broadcasting business project instead of a satellite launch. In this respect, I was not the first fare-paying passenger in space, but rather my flight was unique because it was a private enterprise outside the space industry.

My flight to the Mir space station was followed by the British, Helen Sharman. In the next year and later, a Korean, a Netherlander, and a Belgian are planned to fly on Mir. These people are from small countries, which have little chance to be serviced by NASA. The Austrian who flew to Mir second after me said to me that since even Japan had been waiting for her turn for seven years, so Austria could not fly for 25 years, and so would be left behind European space activities. This represented the background of commercialization of Russian spaceflights. Obviously there had been demands for space flights.

2. Everyone wants to fly to space

The previous speaker talked about spaceflight comparing it to flying in airplanes. The spirit shared by both kinds of flight might be the dream of flying. Everyone likes to fly. I was invited to more than 200 schools to deliver speeches on my experience of spaceflight. I was asked many questions every time. Among them, the question, "when will ordinary men or women be able to fly?" was the most common. I was sorry to answer that probably not before the 2010s. Because I learned at meetings of the Space Activities Commission that the H-2 rocket under development will launch the HOPE in unmanned mode first until 2010. This would mean that my generation will have no chance to go to space. I am really sorry to say this, because I am not a special person but exactly the same as those who asked me the question. I have just luckily happened to be involved in the event to celebrate the 40 anniversary of the TBS company.

3. Physical Requirements

The second most common question is "what are the physical requirements for astronauts?" The present physical tests are very strict, in order to select a few astronauts from many candidates. But in my case, I think the test was a kind of aptitude test. Accordingly, my answer to such questions is that almost every one may clear the requirements.

The following are critical requirements in the checklist that would be applied for applicants for spaceflight.

Heart disease:

This is checked because hearts have to endure increased loads due to gravity when an astronaut returns to earth.


A stone in the bladder or renal calculus is considered to cause trouble if it floats under weightless conditions. Calculus is common to people older than forty years. I have had none, perhaps because I have a good habit to like drinking alcoholic drink made of malt after working every day.

Detached retinas:

I was checked for detached retina. Physicians explained that high acceleration may cause blindness due to detached retina. Accelerations acting on astronauts in the Soyuz capsule are 3 to 4 G during the ascent and 7 to 8 G maximum during the return phase. Especially the pilots are required to be free from the disease. I guess it might be a serious trouble if a pilot answered back to the earth, "I am blind now, so I can't see if the earth is blue."

Blood vessels:

Blood distribution in a human body changes during space flight. Under weightless conditions, about two liters of blood move to the upper body by filling enlarged blood vessels, which causes the swollen face, or the well-known moon face. I could see this symptom in the face of Dr. Mouri when his activities in space were monitored at the control center. Usually astronauts feel sick at this period of flight.

In Russia, allergy and dental health are also items for inspection. I was specially interested in their evaluation of teeth occlusion of astronauts. They explained, that astronauts' training was so expensive that they wanted each astronaut to fly about ten times. Since good teeth and occlusion are signs of good health, every astronaut had their teeth inspected, just like a horse.

Another thing I remember concerning clenching teeth was the sign given by the Commander just before touch-down on the ground. At the final landing moment, the capsule impacted on the ground. To reduce the shock, rocket motors were fired to decelerate the capsule at an altitude between 0.7 m to 1.5m. The number of rockets to be fired depends on the final velocity. In our case, the velocity was normal and was less than 9m/s, so that four engines were used. Just before firing the rockets, the commander shouted warning to prepare for the shock by clenching the teeth.

Thus, these would be special requirements for spaceflight, to be added to those of airflight.

4. Joy of space flight

The Soyuz is a capsule type of spacecraft accommodating three crew members. Eight minutes and fifty seconds after lift-off, you can leave your seat to move and float under weightlessness. The feeling of this experience is just special like Peter Pan flying in the sky or entering a new world of sensual pleasures.

We can experience weightlessness on a parabolic flight in an aircraft. I took training to be familiarized with weightless conditions in Russia. They used Ill-76 aircraft for this purpose. At first, it started with level flight at an altitude of 6,500m, and then it climbed up to 8,500m while throttling its engines back to make a parabolic flight, and returned to the first altitude. The length of weightless condition was 23 seconds.

Thus, weightlessness is the first joy of spaceflight. The next is earth observation. The earth was a wonderful object for sightseeing. At first we were in an orbit at an altitude of 200km, with the orbiting period of 88 minutes. Then we climbed up to 400km high, firing rockets several times. The difference of altitude was not remarkable as far as the scenery was concerned.

Sightseeing the earth is very special. The colors mixed and combined with the movement of the spacecraft around the earth from daylight to the night side were very beautiful. But the special feeling was more than the beauty of the scenery, I thought. I might say it was a psychological experience. The lights and colored seemed like music. This is a special sales point.

Sightseeing the earth and experiencing weightlessness are the basic commercial values of space tourism. And I would like to stress another important aspect of tourism, that is recognition of participation. A tourist enjoys not only the tour itself, but also speaking to friends about his or her own experience during the tour. I tried in Mir to fly with fans just as in the slide which was shown by the first speaker to illustrate flying with wings under no gravity. It will be necessary to reserve sufficient cabin space to make this kind of play possible, even in the first phase of tourism.

5. Living in space experience

I would like to point out that spaceflight is living in space. According to log records of my flight, I vomited at 17:45 after the lift-off at 11:13. At this moment, I felt nothing bad to cause vomiting, but it came out by itself with a slight motion of my body. When I threw up, it smelt bad and felt bad. Thus I was well until then, perhaps for five hours.

Another problem might be waste disposal. In the case of the Soyuz, I was given an enema the day before departure to space. We had urinals, but I never used it between two and half hours before launch and several orbits in space. For space tourists, to use a urinal for themselves could be a great experience to be proud of later. But from the practical viewpoint of operation of tours, management of urinals will be a serious point of discussion which will require technical data of waste disposal.

For the same reason, tourists will want to take a meal in space, even if it is not necessary for such a short flight time as defined by phase one of this study project.

6. Price and Prospective customers

To conclude my comments, I should like to speak about the price of the joy of space tour. Although the target price of the proposed reference space tour has been suggested to be one million plus yen per tourist, I rather think that people would pay more. For example, among the audience at Lions Clubs where I have given speeches, many liked to pay 10 million yen for such experiences. They already might have been to the Antarctic to see penguins, or ate meat of piranhas from the Amazon river. Some did not want to climb mount Everest, but preferred spaceflight. I suppose these kinds of people will be prospective space tourists.

Thus, there are a great number of tourists for space, but the question is when and what vehicles will be available.

Toyohiro Akiyama was born in 1942. Graduating from the International Christian University (ICU), he entered Tokyo Broadcasting System Inc. (TBS) in 1966. After being temporarily transferred to the BBC World Service from 1967 to 1971, he was assigned to the TBS Division of Foreign News. During this assignment, he engaged in news program production, and worked as the chief TBS Correspondent in Washington D.C. for four years from 1984. He was selected as a candidate to become an astronaut for a special TBS mission onboard the Mir Space Station in 1989. After undergoing training for spaceflight, he was selected as finalist and accomplished the mission from December 2 through 10, 1990, becoming the first Japanese astronaut and the first journalist astronaut in the world. At present, he is Deputy President of TBS News Division, and a member of the Japanese Rocket Society.

T Akiyama, April 14, 1993, "The Pleasure of Spaceflight", A comment presented at JRS Space Tourism Study Conference held on April 14, 1993. Edited and translated into English from taped transcript originally in Japanese. Originally published in the Journal of Space Technology and Science, Vol.9 No.1 '93 spring, pp.21-23.
Also downloadable from pleasure of spaceflight.shtml

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