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

A Japanese space tourist on Monday rejected criticism from those who questioned his decision to pay a fortune for a trip to the International Space Station, saying the “amazing” experience was worth it.

Speaking to The Associated Press in a live interview from the orbiting space outpost, billionaire fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa said even though he had imagined what his mission would be like before the flight, he was struck by the reality of space travel.

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

Maezawa, 46, and his 36-year-old producer Yozo Hirano are the first self-paying tourists to visit the space station since 2009. Asked about reports claiming that he paid over $80 million for a 12-day mission, Maezawa said he couldn’t disclose the contract sum but admitted that he paid “pretty much” that amount.

He deflected the criticism from those who questioned his decision to spend money on his space travel instead of using it to help people back on Earth, saying that “those who criticize are perhaps those who have never been to space.”

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