Space Adventures Confirms Fourth Space Tourist

Space Adventures Confirms Fourth Space Tourist
Japanese businessman Daisuke Enomoto (left) is set to become the fourth ISS tourist. U.S. entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari (right) is reported to be his backup.
(Image: © RSC Energia.)

Japaneseentrepreneur Daisuke 'Dice-K' Enomoto is officially confirmed to become theworld's fourth space tourist later this year, Space Adventures announced today.

TheVirginia-based company also confirmed that X Prize sponsor Anousheh Ansari willbe Enomoto's official backup, putting her in line to become the world's firstpaying female space tourist.

Currently,the two are undergoing training together at the Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Center, also known as "Star City," said Space Adventures'president and CEO Eric Anderson.

"Theirtraining is going great so far and they're both fantastic clients," Anderson told SPACE.com.

Enomoto isscheduled to join the 14th Expedition Crew which also includes NASAastronauts Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin. Theflight is tentatively scheduled for a September 15th launch, Anderson said.

In additionto Ansari, the backup crew named to support the Soyuz TMA-9 mission includesNASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko.  Nodate has been set yet for Ansari's flight.

Rumors hadbeen circulating in Russian mediareports since mid-March that Ansari would be the backup, but the officialannouncement was made only today.

"Wejust decided to delay the announcement until such time as the crew wasofficially named," Anderson said.

Accordingto Anderson, Ansari first expressed interest inbecoming Enomoto's backup a few months ago.

"Anoushehand I first discussed the idea of her becoming part of the backup crew lastOctober," he said.

Ansari isperhaps best known for helping to provide the seed money for the Ansari X Prize spaceflightcompetition, which offered $10 million to the first team to build and launch aprivately-funded, piloted spacecraft to suborbital space and back twice in twoweeks. That contest was won by Burt Rutan's SpaceshipOnein June of 2004.

The Ansarifamily recently partnered with Space Adventures to develop the tourismcompany's Explorer spacecraft for suboribital flights from Singaporeand the UnitedArab Emirates.

SpaceAdventures is the company responsible for brokering a series of flights to theInternational Space Station for high-paying entrepreneurs, beginning in 2001with U.S. businessman Dennis Tito. South Africanentrepreneur MarkShuttleworth followed in 2002, with U.S. scientist and businessman GregoryOlsen launching in 2005. Each of those flights, like Enomoto's, carried areported cost of about $20 million.

Like hispredecessors, Enomoto will spend about one week aboard the ISS before returningto Earth. Space Adventures officials have also announced that former Microsoft softwaredeveloper CharlesSimonyi is also set to visit the ISS. Anderson said that it's also possiblethat Ansari will fly on a future mission even if Enomoto makes his flight.

"Ifand when Anousheh decides to fly on an orbital mission, we will be very proudto announce that," he said.

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