Russia?sspace agency chief has said that thrill-seeking millionaires won?t be able tobuy tourist flights to the International Space Station after 2009, according toRussian news reports Wednesday.
AnatolyPerminov, director of Russia?s Federal Space Agency, reportedly told the dailynewspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta that 2009 is the last year in which spacetourists will be able flyto space station due the lack of available seats on Soyuz spacecraft as the orbiting laboratoryshifts to a larger, six-person crew later this year, according to the Russiannews service Ria Novosti.
TheInternational Space Station is slated to double its currentthree-person crew size in late May. Since 2001, six space tourists havevisited the station by paying between $20 million and $30 million under dealsbrokered with Russia?s Federal Space Agency by the U.S. firm Space Adventuresin Vienna, Va.
The nextspace tourist, Americanbillionaire Charles Simonyi, is due to launch to the space station in Marchalong with the orbiting laboratory?s new Expedition 19 crew.
Simonyi ispaying a reported $35 million for what will be his second trip to the spacestation. He last visited the orbiting laboratory in April 2007 on a 13-dayspaceflight that he paid more than $20 million for. Since then, ticket pricesrose to about $30 million due to inflation, Space Adventures officials havesaid.
Simonyi?ssecond trip costing an extra $5 million beyond that due to his membership inSpace Adventure?s Orbital Missions Explorers Circle program, an elite club ofsix people who have put the $5 million down in order to jump to the head of theline for available flights.
High-ranking Russian space officials and cosmonauts met with the RossiiskayaGazeta (or Russian Gazette) for a round table meeting on Jan. 15 todiscuss the future of the nation?s manned spaceflight program, according to theRussian aerospace firm RSC Energia, which posted photos of the meeting to itsWeb site.
Accordingto Ria Novosti, Perminov said that Simonyi and a Kazakh nationalwill fly to the International Space Station this year, with the Kazakhspaceflyer to launch in October, aboard Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft. But theplan to double space station crews up to six astronauts will prevent futurespace tourists from finding room on regular Soyuz flights.
Last year,Space Adventures announced its plans to launch the first privateSoyuz spaceflight to the space station. That mission, slated to launch in2011, called for a crew of two paying passengers and a professional cosmonautcommander to fly to the International Space Station. Space Adventures officialswere not immediately available for comment late Wednesday.
RiaNovosti alsoreported that Russia does not plan to cancel any of its planned launches to thespace station this year. The Federal Space Agency is expected to launchadditional crewed Soyuz capsules and unmanned Progress cargo ships to ferryastronauts and supplies to the orbiting laboratory.
"Ihope that we'll cope,? the Russian news service quoted Perminov as saying. ?Sofar we are preparing to make four manned launches, not two, as previouslyplanned, and send five, not four, freight modules into space.?
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