Science » Technologies and discoveries
Author`s name Ольга Савка

Russia's unique space tourism program revived

American businessman hopes to reach Earth's orbit by this autumn

The Russian Federal Space Agency has officially stated the other day it signed a contract with Space Adventures allowing American Gregory Olsen be the third space tourist in history. Russia's Roskosmos may send the American to the International Space Station this October already together with the 9th visiting mission. Olsen's flight will last for ten days, and the space tourist will spend eight days on board the ISS.

For the time being, Olsen is getting ready for his flight and undergoes the same procedures that astronauts traditionally do, such as medical training, study of life support systems of the ISS and Soyuz spaceship and lessons of Russian among them. It is obligatory that even space tourists must have an alternate; head of Moscow's Space Adventures Sergey Kostenko will be an alternate for the third space tourist. The Russian businessman now has to undergo the same training procedures the American does, with the exception of Russian lessons certainly.

Gregory Olsen is going to realize his “extensive research and media program” while staying at the International Space Station. He will perform several online connections between the mission control and the ISS and establish wireless contact with the Earth; Olsen will take IR-pictures of the Earth surface and the atmosphere and make some video to be further demonstrated in the framework of an educational program. What is more, the American space tourist will expose containers with vine cuttings at the ISS and bring them back to the Earth. It is not clear why Olsen wants to conduct this biological experiment. However, this experiment may be rather advantageous for the third space tourist, as wine collectors are likely to pay enough for a vine that stayed in zero-gravity for some time.
 
Russia hopes that the contract with Gregory Olsen will be a success, as the Russian space tourism program has been making poor progress after its optimistic start. Indeed, space tourism was considered a rather promising sphere after the first and the second flights in 2001 and 2002. Even though a tour to the space is costly enough, there are quite a lot of people wishing to become space tourists.

American businessman Gregory Olsen, 60, revealed surprising persistence: after he was sidelined for medical contraindications in June 2004, he still restored his health and at the end of May 2005 was allowed to start preparations for a flight.

The unique space program has been making poor progress not because of tough Roskosmos commissions and high prices for flights. After USA's Columbia blew up while de-orbiting on February 1, 2003, NASA stopped flights of American shuttles to the ISS, and Russia was the only to take astronauts to the International Space Station. Russia's program for launching Soyuz spaceships was not enough to allow taking space tourists on board the ISS. And Gregory Olsen managed to conclude his contract with Roskosmos just several days after NASA officially stated the first after 2003 shuttle would start July 13.

On the photo: Gregory Olsen

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