Some of Russian oligarchs or moneybags who wish to participate in space flights as tourists have submitted their applications, said Alexei Krasnov, head of the manned space programs at Roskosmos, Russia’s space agency. Krasnov declined to name potential space tourists, though.
Russian tycoons have tried to book tickets for a space ride before. According to Alexei Leonov, a Soviet-era veteran cosmonaut, Russia’s richest man Roman Abramovich was ready to pay $300 million for flying around the Moon. The sum that Abramovich was said to offer exceeded nearly 10 times a standard price paid by space tourists for a roundtrip to the International Space Station. Space tourists have to pay about $20 million each for the pleasure of spending a week on board the ISS, plus another $15 million should they ask for a space walk. But money is not a problem for the Russian superrich who dream of going on a space flight.
The point is that two space tourist flights on Soyuz spacecraft have been already booked for foreign tourists by Space Adventures, a company dealing in commercial space flights. The flights are slated for next fall and spring of 2009. Only one space tourist can go on board the Soyuz at a time. However, Roskosmos could still cut a deal with Space Adventures, said the space official.
Tourist space flights on board Soyuz spacecraft have been very much in demand since 2004. Back then, Roskosmos was running of time as the agency attempted to pick the right candidate for a Soyuz mission a mere ten week before its launch. Gregory Olsen, a U.S. entrepreneur and scientist, was to have joined the crew. However, Olsen was crossed off the list after found unfit for the mission training program due to health reasons (Olsen visited the ISS one year later). Sergei Polonsky, a Russian millionaire and president of the construction company MiraxGroup, was reported to have replaced Olsen as a space tourist. But Polonsky could not the meet the physical criteria; he was too tall in stature (196 cm) for a crewmember. Besides, he proved too stingy, offering to pay a mere $8 million for the trip.
Space tourism is now seen as some kind of a special field of competition by the Russian oligarchs who are rumored to make every possible effort to win the race for a ticket on board the Soyuz. So far, five people have been sent up to space as tourists. None of them was from Russia.
The Russian media came up with speculations about Russian President Vladimir Putin flying to space as a tourist in the near future. A year ago the Russian president actually mentioned his desire to spend some time in space. Speaking to Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, the then mission commander of the ISS, President Putin said he would not mind seeing the planet from outer space one of these days. I would need a vacation to do that, added Putin. Needless to say, the statement gave rise to lots of rumors and speculations in the media. Incidentally, Putin will be “on vacation” next fall.
Translated by Guerman Grachev
Russia may terminate all kinds of military and military-technical relations with Israel, including the agreement on the exchange of reconnaissance data
The Ilyushin 20 (Il-20) military electronic reconnaissance aircraft of the Russian Air Force with 14 servicemen on board that went off radar screens off the coast of Syria was shot down by Syrian air defense systems over the Mediterranean Sea