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Tue, Feb 20, 2007

Space Tourism Comes To Orlando, FL

Space Adventures Exhibits At WAI

Space Tourism once seemed like an oxymoron. Now, what was once considered science fiction is big business, thanks to Space Adventures and the Russian Space Program.

Founded in 1998, CO Eric Anderson knew there were people that wanted to go into space who weren't astronauts or cosmonauts and could pay for the opportunity. Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth, Greg Olsen and most recently the first female tourinaut, Anousheh Ansari have all been into space at a cool $20 million per ticket.

With all the sensitive equipment and language barrier you don't just pony up your $20M and hop on board the Soyuz. No sir, you spend six months and 900 hours training in Star City alongside the cosmonaut and/or astronauts who will be piloting your ride. Soyuz systems, the International Space Station (ISS), learning the Russian language and physical training are all part of your lesson plan. All this training will prepare you for 10 days on the ISS.

In training right now for the next launch in early April is Dr. Charles Simonyi.

During the eight day trip the tourinauts lend a hand and perform experiments, sometimes using their own bodies as the experiment. Ansari helped with a lower back pain study and a microbe study, according to Space Adventures' Pat Hoar (below.)

Spacewalking is a recently added option at an additional cost of $15M for about 1.5 hours. The view is unmatched. Additional training is, of course, necessary to the tune of about 600 hours, but six-to-eight days is also added to the trip.

For the ultimate in getting away from it all, Deep Space Expeditions-Alpha cost $100M. Two tourinauts and one cosmonaut will spend six days going around the moon and returning safely to the Earth. Bring lots of memory cards for the camera!

What if you don't have $100M or even $20M, there are trips for the "budget conscious." Suborbital flights are tagged at just over $100K. Enjoy the Earth view from 62 miles up. The five-place vehicle is in the development stage, and no liftoff date has been announced just yet.

Training is over four days covering safety procedures, vehicle systems, flight ops, weightlessness and more. Two spaceports will be built in conjunction with the program, Spaceport Singapore and Spaceport Emirates.

Suborbital flight still a little pricey? A Zero-G flight may be within the right price range. The nearly full-day adventure is priced just above $3K. Mission briefing and several parabolic flights in a modified 727-200 are on the agenda.

One thing that has not been eliminated with space tourism is losing your luggage. Tourinauts are allowed 10kg of personal items, and the scientific experiments they will be conducting while on the ISS. Sometimes the experiments are sent up to the ISS on the supply ship Progress -- and all the boxes look the same, as there is no marking system and it is difficult to locate the correct boxes.

Space tourism gives a whole new definition to the space race. In this race, maybe we all win.



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