Russia Sees End of Road for Space Tourism

MOSCOW ~ Space tourists may have to seek alternative transport after 2009 due to a lack of room on the Russian capsule serving the International Space Station (ISS), Russia’s space agency chief has said.

“It has to do with international agreements that stipulate that from 2009 the (ISS) crew must be made up of six people if Japanese and European scientific modules are launched,” said Roskosmos chief Anatoly Perminov.

“In this case there will be no room for space tourists,” Perminov told a news conference, adding that space tourism making use of Russian vessels and the ISS would therefore be “rather problematic.”

“I’m afraid that from 2009, tourism as we see it today may be discontinued,” he said.

Perminov said demand for space travel, even at the astronomical prices currently charged, was already overwhelming Roskosmos’s ability to provide seats.

“When there is a possibility we agree to flights by space tourists. There are so many people who want to make such a trip that we cannot satisfy all requests,” he added.

US national Dennis Tito was the first space tourist on the ISS in 2001, followed by South African Mark Shuttleworth in 2002, American Greg Olsen in 2005 and Anousheh Ansari, an American of Iranian origin, in 2006.

Hungarian-born American Charles Simonyi became the world’s fifth space tourist in April last year, describing his US$25-million trip as “terrific.”

Simonyi, the former Microsoft whizz kid who made his fortune helping develop the company’s Word and Excel software, broke the record for space tourists by spending 14 days in space.

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