Soyuz TMA-9 spaceship was successfully launched into space from Baikonur spaceport in the republic of Kazakhstan early Monday today. In addition to two cosmonauts heading to the International Space Station, the Russian rocket is carrying the first ever space female tourist, Anousheh Ansari. It entered orbit about 10 minutes after liftoff, according to Russian space officials monitoring the launch at Mission Control in Korolyov, outside Moscow. Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, US astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria and Iranian-born space tourist Ansari have not had any health-related complaints during the flight so far.
Professional cosmonauts Tyurin and Lopez-Alegria will spend six months on board the ISS. They will replace Pavel Vinogradov and Jeffrey Williams. Anousheh Ansari will stay on board the station for eleven days.
Forty-year-old Ansari has reportedly paid $20 million for the right to visit the International Space Station. The woman completed a special training course for cosmonauts in Russia and at NASA’s Houston center in the USA. Ansari graduated from George Mason University, where she received Bachelor of Science degree in electronics. The space tourist also has Master’s degree of George Washington University.
Space is not new for the Ansaris. The family of US entrepreneurs, Anousheh, her husband Hamid and stepbrother Amir have already invested in the space industry before. In 2002 they participated in the financial support for the ten-million-dollar award for the first private trip into space. Anousheh and her stepbrother Amir are the cofounders of the X-Prize foundation, which supports private space programs. Anousheh and Amir Ansari also act as the cofounders of the company Prodea, which cooperates with the US firm Space Adventures. The latter is a partner of the Russian space corporation Roskosmos for the selection of potential space tourists.
Anousheh Ansari started training as a backup for Japanese space tourist Daisuke Enomoto, whose space journey was subsequently canceled for health reasons.
Soyuz TMA-9 is to dock the International Space Station on Wednesday. The current crew of the ISS consists of Pavel Vinogradov (Russia), Jeffrey Williams (USA) and Thomas Reiter (Germany). Vinogradov and Williams arrived at the ISS in April. Reiter boarded the station from space shuttle Discovery in July and will stay in the orbit for several more months. Anousheh Ansari will spend eleven days on board the station and return to Earth on September 24 with Vinogradov and Williams.
During her stay on board the International Space Station, Ansari will conduct two scientific experiments for the European Space Agency and one experiment for Corporation Energia (Russia). The program of Ansari’s stay in open space includes photo and video shooting and radio communication with Earth. Ansari said before the lift-off that she was going to take a book of prayers, a piece of SpaceShipOne spacecraft and a set of patches along, including an emblem of the Iranian flag. The tourist said that the flag patch had nothing to do with politics, but was merely a tribute to her native land.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov