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Report of X Prize Backer Ansari's Space Tourist Plans Not Official, Firm Says

A Russian reportclaiming that U.S. entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari may become the first femalespace tourist to the International Space Station (ISS) is far from official,according to the only company that brokers private trips to the orbital laboratory.

StaceyTearne, a spokesperson for the Virginia-based firm Space Adventures, told SPACE.comthat Ansari has expressed an interest in orbital flight and has visited Russia'sStar City cosmonaut training center. But a report by Russia's Interfax News Agencythat Space Adventures officials in Russia announced Ansari's status Tuesday asback-up to confirmed Japanese space tourist Daisuke Enomotois inaccurate, the firm said.

"Nothingwas announced from our office in Virginia or Russia," Tearne said.

Ansari andher family have a track record in private space ventures. The family backed theAnsari X Prize, a $10 million suborbital spaceflight contest for private teams,with a multimillion-dollarcontribution in 2004. Ansari's Texas-based firm Prodea, co-founded withhusband Hamid and brother-in-law Amir, has also partneredwith Space Adventures to develop the Explorer spacecraft, a suborbitalvehicle that will launch from at least two planned spaceports in the UnitedArab Emirates and Singapore.

Space Adventureshas brokered ISS-bound flights for Enomoto, who is trainingto launch to the station with the Expedition 14 crew this September, as wellthe past missions of U.S. scientist and entrepreneur GregoryOlsen in 2005, South Africa's Mark Shuttleworth in2002, and U.S. businessman DennisTito in 2001. Each of those flights carried an announced price of about $20million.

Accordingto the Interfax report, which cited an unnamed Space Adventures spokespersonbased in Russia, a contract to launch the 39-year-old Ansari spaceward aboard afuture Soyuz spacecraft was under review.

"Details ofthe contract are being negotiated. Ansari is expected to undergo training atStar City as a back-up astronaut for Japanese space tourist [Daisuke] Enomototo perform a space journey in September 2006," Interfax quoted the spokespersonas saying. "Ansari has been examined by Russiandoctors who have given their go-ahead to her training."

But Space Adventuressaid no official announcement has been issued and that its space touristannouncements typically come once ISS crews are officially announced by NASAand Russia's Federal Space Agency, they added.

In additionto providing suborbital and orbital space experiences for private citizens,Space Adventures also arranges flights aboard Russian-built MiG jets andairplane flights that simulate weightlessness. In August 2005, the firm alsoannounced plans $100 million trips around the Moon.

The 34-year-old Enomoto will mark the firm's fourth spacetourist to visit the ISS and is training for a 10-day spaceflight. Like all ISSvisitors - including Brazilian astronaut MarcosPontes set to launch with the Expedition13 crew next week - Enomoto will spend eight days aboard the station beforereturning to Earth.

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