Backup Space Tourist Begins Training
American aviation attorney Barbara Barrett, a former U.S. ambassador to Finland, trains in a mockup of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. She is the backup to Canadian space tourist Guy Laliberté, founder of the Cirque du Soleil, who is set to launch in Sept. 2009.
Credit: Space Adventures.

A former U.S. ambassador to Finland has begun training to fly aboard a Russian spaceship as the backup for a Canadian space tourist set to blast off in September.

American attorney Barbara Barrett is training as a backup crew member for a Russian Soyuz flight slated to deliver Cirque de Soleil founder Guy Lalibert? to the International Space Station for a 12-day stay this fall, according to Space Adventures Ltd., the Vienna, Va.-based firm that organized the training and flight.

?Training as a backup for the September space launch is an adventure - and education - of a lifetime,? said Barrett, a former deputy administrator of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in a statement. ?The space frontier inspires young people today just as it did Galileo and Copernicus centuries ago. Students today who build science and math skills will have access to the thrill of space travel almost routinely in their lifetimes."

An aviation attorney who became the FAA?s first female deputy in 1988, Barrett is an instrument-rated pilot and has served on the boards of a number of aerospace companies, including Raytheon, the Space Foundation and The Aerospace Corp.

Barrett also was the first woman to run for governor in Arizona, losing the state?s 1994 Republican primary to incumbent Gov. Fife Symington. More recently, she served as U.S. ambassador to Finland from April 2008 to January 2009.

Her husband, Craig Barrett, is a former chairman and chief executive of chip-maker Intel Corp.

Canadian first in line

Barrett is training alongside Lalibert? at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center outside Moscow, but only Lalibert? is booked on the Soyuz TMA-16 flight slated to launch Sept. 30 from the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Lalibert? is the seventh person in history to arrange a paid, multimillion-dollar trek to the International Space Station, though his flight is the eighth private orbital spaceflight since 2001. American billionaire Charles Simonyi flew to the station twice, in 2007 and again earlier this year, under deals between Russia?s Federal Space Agency and Space Adventures.

If Lalibert? is unable to fly for any reason Barrett would take his place, a situation that arose only once before in 2006. During that instance, Japanese businessman Daisuke Enomoto was replaced by his backup, American entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari, who went on to fly an 11-day mission to the station.

Space Adventures has arranged every private spaceflight to the International Space Station since the 2001 launch of American businessman Dennis Tito. The flights have recently been pegged at about $30 million per trip, though Lalibert? has not specified the cost of his trip.

If Lalibert? is cleared for the flight, he will fly with Russian cosmonaut Maksim Surayev and NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams, both of whom are due to remain at the station until March 2010.

The space station is currently home to six people - two Russian cosmonauts and one astronaut each from the U.S., Japan, Canada and Belgium. The spaceflyers are the first full-sized crew for the station and represent all of the major international space agencies building the $100 billion orbital outpost.

SPACE.com Senior Editor Tariq Malik contributed to this report.

  • New Video - Population Boom on Space Station
  • Video - Charles Simonyi: World's 1st Repeat Space Tourist
  • Image Gallery - Charles in Space!