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Journalist Back From Space Ready for a Beer

From Associated Press

After eight days in space, journalist Toyohiro Akiyama safely touched down Monday with down-to-earth cravings for beer, good food and a smoke.

“It seems like I came back as a mass of desire,” Akiyama, 48, said after emerging from the Soyuz space capsule that landed on the frozen tundra in Kazakhstan, the Soviet republic in Central Asia.

Akiyama, a news director for the Tokyo Broadcasting System, was the first Japanese and the first journalist in space. He returned with cosmonauts Gennady Manakov and Gennady Strekalov, who were concluding a four-month stay aboard the Mir space station.

After the weightlessness of life in space, he said that he felt “heavy, heavy. I thought I could stand, but I felt I have no legs.”

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TBS paid the Soviets $12 million for Akiyama’s rocket fare and spent an additional $25 million on the project.

Akiyama’s odyssey in space began Dec. 2 with liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, 1,300 miles east of Moscow. He and two cosmonauts linked up with the space station Mir last Tuesday.

TBS, which sent Akiyama into space as part of the company’s 40th anniversary celebrations, aired exclusive live broadcasts from their astro-reporter each night and won strong ratings.

In those reports, Akiyama explained how it felt to be weightless and space-sick, which he described as similar to a hangover.

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He expressed concerns about the global pollution he viewed from orbit and recited haiku poetry.

Taking along a paying passenger was an important step in the Soviets’ effort to commercialize their space program, and Akiyama’s trip has been a relentlessly commercial affair.

Japanese corporate sponsors, including a diaper maker and a toothpaste company, had their logos plastered on the rocket that launched Akiyama into space.


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