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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cosmonaut School: Now Open to Earthlings

Shopping for adventure?

Star City, the place where the Russians train their cosmonauts, offers lessons that are out of this world.

"In 1992 we organized courses for people who want to feel like real cosmonauts," said Igor Rudyayev of the Center for Cosmonaut Training.

The would-be cosmonauts do not actually go up into space, but they get to experience weightlessness and other rewards in the space-travel line of duty.

The fun doesn't come cheap.

An accelerated course lasting from two to five days runs from $3,000 to $7,500, depending on the length of the training and the number of options chosen.

Generally, students come from France, Austria, Germany and the United States.

"For these people, 'cosmonautica' is a lifetime hobby. Many of them are former military pilots or specialists in unusual fields," Rudyayev remarked.

The courses are not only a way for aspiring space travelers to realize cosmic dreams; they are also a way for the center to make money at a time when financial support from the federal government is dwindling.

General Lieutenant Peter Klimuk, the head of the center, said his organization paid more than 2 billion rubles ($450,000) in 1994 for electricity alone.

The center finds space-travel fans through Swiss middlemen. Although some applications are rejected, over the course of three years around 60 people have completed courses at Star City.

By comparison, in the 35 years of the training center's existence, around 80 authentic space-bound cosmonauts have gone through the courses.

The training of a professional cosmonaut, of course, goes on for much longer -- from a year and a half up to two years -- and costs from $1.5 million to $2 million.

Just like the professionals, the students must first undergo medical tests. If the doctors pronounce them fit for training, the teachers start putting them through their cosmonaut paces.

Language, by the way, is not a barrier. Translations and interpreting can be provided in any tongue.

The students are given only rudimentary theoretical instruction.

"Their program, of course, does not include a lot of the fine points that we go over with the professionals," Rudyayev said.

Naturally, an amateur's diploma is not a ticket to the stars with the next crew of Russian cosmonauts.

After the theory comes the practice, including stints in the weightlessness chamber and training sessions in simulators resembling the orbiting space station Mir and the spaceship Soyuz.

The brave can choose to spend time in the centrifugal chair, which revolves at a speed of 270 kilometers per hour.

The zenith of the training program is a simulation of the docking of Soyuz and Mir.

So far, only foreigners have signed up for the courses, Rudyayev said. Russians apparently have chosen to stay down to earth -- probably because, while many have the money to take the classes, they don't have time.

The classes for amateur cosmonauts are given only when the professional cosmonauts are on break.

"That's the main rule, as we are not planning to turn the Center for Cosmonaut Training into some sort of attraction," Rudyayev said.

In recent months, the center has trained 10 professional astronauts from France, Germany, Sweden and the United States, with Russia represented by 20 professional cosmonauts and possible candidates.

But now that times have changed, anyone with good health, enough money, and cosmic aspirations can at least feel like a cosmonaut in a few days at Star City.

For more information on cosmonaut courses at the Center for Cosmonaut Training, call Star City at 526-2710, 2235 or 2910.