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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shuttleworth Welcomed Aboard

APShuttleworth's mother, Ronelle, and father, Rick, watching the docking Saturday.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- South African space tourist Mark Shuttleworth received a warm welcome Saturday aboard the international space station and settled in for an eight-day, seven-night stay.

The 28-year-old smiled broadly as he floated into the space station and was embraced by its three occupants. One orbit, or 1 1/2 hours later, South African President Thabo Mbeki called to congratulate the first African citizen in space.

"It's amazingly roomy," Shuttleworth told the president. "Although it's very, very large, we have to move very carefully. As you can see around us, there are tons of very precious and very sophisticated equipment. We hope that we will be good guests."

As for his liftoff two days earlier from Kazakhstan, "I had moments of terror, moments of sheer upliftment and exhilaration," Shuttleworth said. "I have truly never seen anything as beautiful as the Earth from space. I can't imagine anything that could surpass that."

The world's latest space tourist -- dubbed an Afronaut back home -- has generated huge excitement in South Africa.

"The whole continent is proud that, at last, we have one of our own people from Africa up in space," said Mbeki, taking part in celebrations for Freedom Day, marking the 1994 elections that ended apartheid. "It's a proud Freedom Day because of what you've done."

Shuttleworth's parents were relieved to see their adventure-seeking son, an entrepreneur who made his fortune off the Internet, safely aboard space station Alpha. They watched from Russian Mission Control outside Moscow as the Soyuz capsule smoothly docked with the space station 400 kilometers up.

"It was one of the dangerous procedures and my stomach was in a real knot before it started. But I'm feeling much better now," said his mother, Ronelle Shuttleworth.

The three men who have been living on the orbiting outpost since December, and won't return to Earth until June, were delighted to have company. "It's always great to see new faces," said American astronaut Carl Walz.

Shuttleworth and his Soyuz crewmates, cosmonaut Yury Gidzenko and Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori, accomplished their primary job with the successful docking of their spacecraft. It will now serve as the space station's lifeboat. When the three leave next Saturday night, they will use the Soyuz that has been attached to the station for the past six months.

Shuttleworth, who is paying the Russians about $20 million for his ride, will perform several scientific experiments, including one for AIDS research. He wore a white patch with an embroidered red ribbon on his blue cosmonaut uniform to symbolize the fight against AIDS. He also plans to chat with South African schoolchildren via ham radio.