According to a Russian official, the commercial space company Space Adventures will be sending two space tourists a year into orbit on Soyuz spacecraft from beginning in 2012. “We have been working on this project for a number of years” said Sergey Kostenko, the head of the company’s office in Russia, who was quoted in the Russian news website RiaNovosti. “Each Soyuz will carry two tourists and a professional astronaut. One of the tourists will have to pass a year-and-a-half training course as a flight engineer.”
Space Adventures has been authorized by the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos to select and contract candidates for space tourist trips. According to Kostenko, Russia’s RSC Energia corporation has the capacity to build five Soyuz spacecraft per year instead of four, meaning that Space Adventures will be able to use at least one Soyuz for space tourism purposes.
“The International Space Station (ISS) program requires four Soyuz spacecraft per year, and we have been informed by RSC Energia that they will be able to increase the annual production to five spacecraft,” he said, adding that Space Adventures would pay for the construction of the extra Soyuz, the launch services and the salary of a Russian cosmonaut as crew commander.
Kostenko said Space Adventrues, which bills itself as the only company currently providing human space mission opportunities to the world marketplace, already had a number of candidates who were willing to pay for trips into space, including Russian-born American billionaire and Google co-founder Sergey Brin.
The current price of a 10-day trip to the ISS for a tourist is estimated at about $35 million USD.
Space tourists started flying to the International Space Station in 2001 when American businessman and former NASA scientist Dennis Tito flew to the ISS aboard a Soyuz. He was followed by South African computer millionaire Mark Shuttleworth in 2002, and Gregory Olsen, a U.S. entrepreneur and scientist, in 2005.
In 2006, Anousheh Ansari, a U.S. citizen of Iranian descent, became the first female space tourist.
U.S. games developer Richard Garriott, the son of former NASA astronaut Owen K. Garriott, went into orbit for 11 days in October 2008 on board a Russian Soyuz TMA-13.
U.S. space tourist Charles Simonyi, one of the founders of Microsoft, made two trips to the ISS – in 2005 and 2009.
Guy Laliberte, the Canadian founder of entertainment company Cirque du Soleil, arrived at the ISS on Friday and will stay on board until October 10.
Source: Ria Novosti