Spaceflightenthusiasts eager for a taste of the cosmonaut lifestyle can now vie for a newexperience: backup space tourist.
The Virginia-basedtourism firm Space Adventures is offering a $3 million ticket for the backupseat on an October 2008 flight to the International Space Station (ISS). Sittingin the prime seat is Texas-based computergame developer Richard Garriott, who is paying about $30 million to ride aRussian Soyuz rocket to the orbital laboratory next fall.
SpaceAdventures officials announced the new ticket Thursday and told SPACE.comthat it is the first time a backup crewmember slot is available as an official product.The selected backup crewmember will be an active participant in Garriott'smission and be featured in a documentary TV series, the space tourism firm said.
"Iwant to involve as many people as possible in my mission and this is one of themost innovative ways to do so," Garriott said in the announcement."Not only will the backup crewmember be certified as a fully-trainedcosmonaut and be named to a missioncrew, a distinction that less than 1,000 people have ever had; but, ourcombined participation is a step forward in the progression of our expansioninto the cosmos.?
SpaceAdventures is currently the only firm offering tickets to Earth orbit aboardSoyuz spacecraft launched by Russia's Federal Space Agency. Garriott will bethe sixth paying visitor to the ISS and the first child of a U.S. astronaut tofly in space. His father, former NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, flew aboard theU.S. Skylab space station and the space shuttle Columbia.
The conceptof a backup space tourist is not new.
Last year, Americanentrepreneur Anousheh Ansari served as the backup for Japanese businessmanDaisuke Enomoto. When medical issues prevented Enomoto fromlaunching to the ISS in September 2006, Ansari stepped into his seat asprime private spaceflyer.
?If I hadnot trained as a backup crew member in 2006, then I would never have flown tospace that year,? said Ansari, who became the world's fourth space tourist andthe first woman to pay for an orbital flight. ?The training was exhilaratingand ultimately prepared me for my flight which I?m thankful for.?
SpaceAdventures CEO Eric Anderson said the $3 million price tag for a backup spacetourist slot can also be used as credit for a future orbital or even lunarspaceflight.
"Participationas an official backup crew member is a once in a lifetime opportunity for anindividual, or a company sponsoring an individual, to experience first-hand howour clients train for spaceflight," Anderson said in a statement, addingthat the ticket price includes spaceflight training costs and accommodations atRussia's Star City-based cosmonaut center.
Garriottwill launch to the ISS with the space station's Expedition 18 crew and returnwith the orbital laboratory's outgoing Expedition 17 shift. He will be thefirst space tourist to the ISS since American entrepreneur Charles Simonyi's April2007 flight and will begin training in January.
Garriott ischronicling his spaceflight training and mission at his personal Web site: www.richardinspace.com.
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