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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Space Tourism Back in Business

APSpace Adventures' chief executive Eric Anderson, left, Dennis Tito, center, and Russian space agency spokesman Sergei Gorbunov watching previous space launches during their conference in New York on Wednesday.
NEW YORK -- The Russian Aviation and Space Agency and a private U.S. space tourism company late Wednesday announced plans to send two thrill-seekers with strong stomachs and very, very deep pockets into space.

The space agency and Space Adventures, which have already sent U.S. millionaire Dennis Tito and South African Mark Shuttleworth into orbit, said they plan to launch two more tourists together in early 2005.

Space Adventures said it will charge $20 million per passenger on the eight- to 10-day trip -- about what Tito and Shuttleworth paid for their flights in 2001 and 2002. The tourists will travel to the international space station and spend about six days there before returning to Earth.

Despite the astronomical price tag, Space Adventures' chief executive Eric Anderson said a dozen people have already undergone medical tests for the flight and paid certain fees.

Most of the ticket cost goes toward building the Russian Soyuz rocket flown on the trip, which is not reusable.

"Imagine how much it would cost to fly from New York to Los Angeles if you had to build the plane and stick it in the garbage afterward," Anderson said.

The cash injection, which aids Russia's space program, is a compelling reason to shuttle customers into space, Russian space agency spokesman Sergei Gorbunov said in an interview in New York.

Space Adventures would not name the potential civilian space explorers. But Anderson said none of the people who had expressed interest had pulled out after the U.S. space shuttle Columbia broke up in midair in February.

Reuters

The Soyuz TMA-2 rocket positioning itself for launch in Kazakhstan earlier this year.



After the Columbia accident, Russian space officials said the country had frozen plans to shuttle more tourists into space. The disaster left Soyuz craft as the only working link to the international space station.

But Gorbunov said Russia had determined that bringing back commercial space flights was the right thing to do.

"If we felt the risk would be increased in any way we would never have signed this agreement," he said.

NASA spokeswoman Debbie Rahn said the Russian space agency had not formally told NASA and the other partners in the international space station about the plan.

She said the Russian agency was fully within its rights to propose such a deal, but expected it would not ask to fly commercial missions to the station while NASA's shuttle fleet is still grounded, following the Columbia disaster.