Grounded Space Tourist Sues for $21 Million Refund
A $21 million dispute over a space tourism trip that never happened is set for a Nov. 21 hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va.
Japanese businessman Daisuke Enomoto is suing Vienna, Va.-based Space Adventures to recoup $21 million he paid for a flight to the International Space Station before he was medically disqualified because of kidney stones. Space Adventures commercially markets spaceflights on Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft in partnership with the Russian Space Agency.
Three weeks before Enomoto was scheduled to lift off aboard a Soyuz, a Russian medical team said he was not qualified for spaceflight, despite being cleared two weeks earlier, according to his lawsuit.
The lawsuit implies Enomoto was replaced by a Space Adventures investor because he refused to commit to future investments and demanded a refund for money he spent on a spacewalk before changing his mind.
Space Adventures denies Enomoto?s accusations, saying he is a successful businessman who should have understood the contract only guaranteed a refund if Space Adventures or the Russian Space Agency failed to produce a spaceflight or defaulted on the contract. The company could not have foreseen a reoccurrence of kidney stones, and Enomoto also knew about his medical condition, Space Adventures attorneys said in their motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
In a written statement, the company said there are no guarantees in the risky business of spaceflight. ?Because withdrawal from flight at the last moment might mean Space Adventures would lose the opportunity to resell the seat, or have to sell it at a very low price, a Client is not entitled to a refund, and is liable for the full amount of the contract once he has reached a specified point in the process,? the statement said. ?A Client cannot simply circumvent this provision by medical disqualification, whether self-induced by failure to follow a medical regimen or not. Medical status is a risk that is borne by the Client in this type of contract.?
Enomoto paid $14 million of the $20 million agreement for the spaceflight and an additional $7 million for a spacewalk he said was critical to his decision to continue with the space mission. Enomoto argues Space Adventures misled him early on about the likelihood of a spacewalk and pressed him to make payments that locked him into the $20 million contract despite known problems with kidney stones dating back to 2004.
The lawsuit also says Space Adventures took the unusual step of naming American entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari to be his backup after her family invested in Space Adventures, and notes the timing was in tandem with collapsing negotiations over the spacewalk. Ansari replaced Enomoto when he was disqualified for the September 2006 mission.
Space Adventures, in the prepared statement, said Enomoto accepted months of specialized training and made payments on the contract with full understanding of the terms.
?He is not entitled to any refund and he must be held to pay for the flight he did not take,? the statement said.
Enomoto was to be the fourth space tourist to travel to the International Space Station on a Russian-built Soyuz. He signed an agreement with Space Adventures in November 2004 for the flight, and a NASA physician at Johnson Space Center in Houston who evaluated him the same month identified his kidney stones and a soft tissue mass at the base of his neck, his lawsuit says.
Doctors for the Russian Space Agency, physicians representing five international space station partners and specialists in Moscow, England and Japan continued to evaluate Enomoto during the next 21 months. Doctors said a benign brain mass posed no risk and treated him for the kidney stones, according to the lawsuit.
Eric Anderson, president and chief executive of Space Adventures, told Enomoto that doctors had reported Enomoto was not adhering to subscribed treatment, according to Enomoto?s lawsuit.
Enomoto alleges Space Adventures knew kidney stones would disqualify him for a trip to the international space station, but ?deceptively and fraudulently? convinced him to continue making payments. Under terms of the contract, Enomoto paid a $2 million nonrefundable down payment and was to make three $6 million installments. Upon the first $6 million payment, the full amount of the $20 million contract became nonrefundable.
Enomoto, however, charges that Space Adventures led him to believe he would be able to conduct a spacewalk during his international space station mission for an additional $10 million but produced three versions of a contract addendum that he refused to sign. Enomoto objected to wording that said the $10 million was nonrefundable and left the spacewalk decision entirely to the Russian Space Agency. He believed the $7 million he paid for the spacewalk should have been applied to the remaining $6 million he owed for the spacewalk, according to the lawsuit.
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