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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Governors Are Thinking About Buying Space Trip

ReutersIvanov smiling near a Soyuz capsule during a visit to Star City on Thursday.
The next space tourist to blast off for the international space station might be a Russian governor, the Federal Space Agency said.

No seats will be available on a Soyuz-TMA crew capsule until 2009, but several governors are already expressing interest in making the 10-day trip, agency chief Anatoly Perminov said.

"I am not going to name names for now. Let's see how it goes," Perminov said on the eve of Thursday's Cosmonauts Day holiday, Interfax reported.

If they relied only on their government salaries, governors and other civil servants would have to save up for centuries to afford the $25 million ticket to space. The highest-paid civil servant is Vladimir Putin, who collected $90,000 as president last year, according to Kommersant-Vlast.

Several governors have been investigated on suspicion of corruption recently, including on how their trips to foreign countries were financed.

Perminov complained that none of the country's richest people, including the 53 billionaires on the Forbes 2007 list, had expressed interest in visiting space. "Perhaps they are afraid of leaving their fortunes unattended," he said.

Eric Anderson, head of U.S.-based Space Adventures, which arranges trips to the space station, said Thursday that he hoped a Russian would book a seat one day, Interfax reported. He said the name of the next space tourist would be disclosed in a few months.

The latest space tourist, U.S. billionaire Charles Simonyi, spoke Thursday with First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov from the international space station, where he and five astronauts were gearing up for a gourmet meal that Simonyi brought with him when he arrived Monday. Simonyi's friend, U.S. lifestyle maven Martha Stewart, picked out the menu, which includes quail marinated in wine.

Ivanov, visiting Mission Control in Korolyov outside Moscow, asked the crew members via a video linkup how they felt, and Simonyi replied in Russian, "I'm feeling pleasant," Itar-Tass reported.

Ivanov promised that Russia would "beef up" its segment of the station, which is a joint project of more than a dozen of nations.

Simonyi is to return to Earth along with U.S. astronaut Miguel Lopez-Alegria and cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin on April 20 aboard a Soyuz-TMA. Cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov, who arrived with Simonyi this week, will remain on the outpost with U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams.

Ivanov jokingly told Yurchikhin and Kotov "to cherish Sunita."

People across the country, meanwhile, laid flowers at monuments dedicated to Yury Gagarin's first manned spaceflight, 46 years ago.

State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov went to Kaluga, the hometown of Russian rocket science father Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. After visiting Mission Control, Ivanov stopped by the Yury Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, also in the Moscow region.