Japan’s first space voyage generated some broadsides today about the blatant commercialism of the venture, which cost the nation’s largest private broadcasting company $37 million.
Toyohiro Akiyama, the first Japanese and first journalist in space, was orbiting the Earth today with two Soviet cosmonauts in a Soyuz space capsule, a day after their liftoff from the steppes of Soviet Central Asia.
The rocket carrying Akyiyama into space was plastered with the logos of nine Japanese corporate sponsors, including a manufacturer of diapers and sanitary products, a toothpaste company and a solar heater maker.
Japanese newspapers praised the mission but gently prodded Tokyo Broadcasting System, which footed the bill, for commercializing the final frontier.
Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s largest newspaper and linked to a media group in competition with TBS, described the mission as an advertising “sales blitz.”
“This flight is supposed to be a practice for allowing other laymen into space, but it also gives the impression that space travel is a business,” said Nihon Keizai Shimbun, a major economic newspaper.
TBS is spending $37 million to launch Akiyama, 48, and broadcast his coverage live for the duration of the eight-day trip.
The network hopes to arrange a telephone call Dec. 7 between Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and the cosmonauts.
The contract with TBS boosted the Kremlin’s drive to cash in on its Soyuz space program in the face of critical economic problems.