A television station's costly bid to boost ratings by making one of its reporters the first Japanese to journey to outer space has been brought down to Earth by apathetic viewers.

Reporter Toyohiro Akiyama, 48, Sunday became the first journalist to report live from space aboard the Soviet TM-11 spacecraft for a trip to the space station Mir.His ticket for the eight-day trip cost Tokyo Broadcasting System $12 million. His reports from space were intended to be a centerpiece of the station's 40th anniversary celebrations.

TBS took 36 percent of the audience when millions of Japanese watched the blast off from Soviet Central Asia on Sunday. But ratings dwindled to 17 percent by Wednesday for a report from the space station where the crew had docked the day before.

The station's main evening news usually attracts about 14 percent of viewers, ranking it fourth of Tokyo's five commercial networks.