Space Tourist Flights to ISS Still On, Says Space Adventures

If flying to the International Space Station has been one of your lifelong dreams, don’t give up hope just yet. While NASA and even the Russian space agency have been warning that with the increase in crew size on the ISS, there won’t be room for any space tourists on board the Soyuz crew exchange flights, Eric Anderson, CEO of Space Adventures held a news conference on Friday to let everyone know the space tourist game is still on. “Space Adventures is very much looking to continue providing orbital space flight opportunities to the ISS, even as the logistical and crew situation continues to evolve,” Anderson said. “We plan to do this in two ways. First, via privately funded Soyuz missions; fully dedicated flights of the Soyuz with two seats available for private spaceflight. That program is moving full steam ahead and we anticipate first flight of that profile could launch in 2012.” The second option, Anderson said, is that they anticipate the 3rd seat on board the Soyuz could become available occasionally.

“The third seat will mostly be used to facilitate the expanded crew size, but there might be sets of circumstances where the third seat is available,” Anderson said. “It’s too early to tell for sure, but we believe this will be possible in the future.”

Anderson said Space Adventures has also received new information, about the possibility of a seat opening up on Soyuz TMA 16 flight, scheduled for Sept. 16, 2009. “We’ve learned from Roscosmos that the seat may not be used by cosmonaut from Kazakhstan, and they are considering another spaceflight participant, or another Russian cosmonaut. It’s too early to confirm whether such an opportunity firmly exists, but I mention it because it is a distinct possibility. ” Aydyn Aimbetov is the Kazak cosmonaut in question.
Asked who could be ready on such a short timeframe, Anderson was vague, but mentioned Esther Dyson, and Nik Halik, who have both trained as back-up spaceflight participants could possibly be candidates.

Anderson said Space Adventures has many exciting things planned on board the ISS over the next few years, and hope the continued prospect of short term stays by private citizens will continue to be part of that.

While the Russians have at times been hard pressed to come up with enough Soyuz spacecraft for the two crew exchange flights needed per year, Anderson said he’s confidant that by 2012 the prospect of adding more Soyuz flights is reasonable.

“Historically, there have been many times in the past where Russia has launched more than two Soyuz flights a year,” Anderson said. “We believe the more people we have traveling to the ISS the better it is, for everybody. It is a good thing for private citizens to be able to visit this wonderful space station from time to time.”

Anderson even hinted that the crew rotation logistics for professional astronauts from the countries participating in the ISS partnership could be in flux. “The crew size could go up and down from the base-line planning of six, due to budgetary questions, and questions of how long each astronaut stays on station,” he said. “We believe there’s the likelihood of these flights opening up from time to time.”

Space Adventures client Charles Simonyi, currently on board the ISS. Credit: Space Adventures
Space Adventures client Charles Simonyi, currently on board the ISS. Credit: Space Adventures

Asked if he anticipate increased cost of the tourist flights, Anderson said yes. “Costs have definitely been going up and I expect those trends to continue. Inflationary factors have driven up the costs and I expect that to continue.”

Anderson said there has been steady interest from the public in spaceflights to the ISS, despite the economic downturn. “The times we’re in, of course we are being affected by the economic crises. No company in unaffected, but the kind of person who indicates to us they are interested in flying to space is an long-term thinker, and people who have had a lifelong interest in going to space doesn’t allow an economic downturn to change their mind. It’s a multiyear process for this to happen, and there is still a deep-seated interest from the public. As things turn around, I’m sure we’ll see an uptick in interest.”

Anderson said Space Adventures has been excited about Charles Simonyi who is currently on board the ISS during his second flight, and that his stay has been extended by a day due to weather.

“He has been quite busy with mission activities, supportive of the ISS professional crew, and volunteered to assist crew with their duties,” Anderson said. “At this point we’re proud to have been provided the six private individual people with these seven flights; to provide them the opportunity to fulfill their dreams of flying to space. I remain proud of Space Adventures and all our partners and am excited about what the future holds.”

Source: Space Adventures telephone conference 4/3/2009

5 Replies to “Space Tourist Flights to ISS Still On, Says Space Adventures”

  1. I have to agree on Astrofriends’ statement that ‘space tourism’ cheapened the wonders of going into space-only the super rich will afford the flight for show and tell. However,
    a disaster in space like the vessel being hit by a metoroid or space debris will effectively end ‘space tourism’ and will let humans know going into space is NOT something to be taken lightly.!!!!!!!

  2. Think positive sta gazer, you might win the supper lottery next week and become super rich overnight. 🙂

  3. Star grazer,

    To some degree I agree with you, but until the masses have access to that which only astronaut and now the super rich have, space exploration will never have the full support of the planet’s population. Our future in space will rely on the ability of the average joe experiencing it in a tangible way. And the future of Earth will depend on people appreciating just how fragile a situation we live in. Like anything the rich are always going to be the first to experience the latest in greatest, as its their excess spending that eventually allows the rest of us to pay for it on the cheap.

  4. I know I certainly won’t stop one disaster in space stop me from going! I’m just an average Joe currently, but I do have a dream to go into space one day, and unlike most people, I’m prepared to act on that dream! I attend as many wealth creation and self-improvement seminars that I possibly can, so that one day I WILL become super rich and then be able to afford to go up. And when I reach that point, a single accident in space certainly won’t stop me from fulfilling that dream! Just like Nik Halik who’s on the standby list for Sept flight, who I’ve seen speak in person at a seminar, he was also an average Joe like myself in the beginning, but he had a dream. And now it looks like he’ll be fulfilling that dream soon. Just like what I’ll be doing in the future. So for anyone dreams of going to space but thinks it is only for the ‘super rich’, well, all I can say is that your dream is obviously not strong enough.

  5. Will it ever be possible for the average person to go up in space without training, as we do today on airplanes? I think that’s an obstacle to bringing space tourism to the average everyday person.

    I also wonder, if enough multi-millionaires do it, will the price come down eventually?

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