Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Three Tourist Seats Open Up On Russian Soyuz Spacecraft

Now is your chance to ante up for an adventure vacation to the International Space Station.

Space Adventures and the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation have hammered out an agreement to commercially offer up three seats on Soyuz spacecraft flying to the international outpost beginning in 2013.

Each flight will be a relatively short 10-day round trip to the station.

The Russian space agency is increasing Soyuz production from four to five spacecraft per year in order to accommodate three "spaceflight participants" beginning in 2013. Tourist flights to the station took a back seat to the launch of astronauts from station partner nations after crew size of the outpost was doubled to six in 2009.

Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte was the most recent tourist to fly to the station. He launched Sept. 30, 2009 and returned two Earth 12 days later.

"We are extremely excited to announce this agreement and would like to thank our Russian partners in increasing Soyuz production and providing Space Adventures these well sought-after transportation services on the only commercially available manned spacecraft currently in operation,” Space Adventures chairman Eric Anderson said in a statement.

“Since Guy Laliberte's mission, there has been an increase of interest by private individuals, organizations and commercial entities seeking ways to access the space station. We have been speaking with these parties about science, education and multi-media programs and hope to make some major announcements in the coming year.”

Space Adventures has sent seven clients on eight flights to the station since Dennis Tito became the first "spaceflight participant" in 2001. The others include Mark Shuttleworth, Gregory Olsen, Anousheh Ansari, Charles Simonyi, Richard Garriott and Laliberte. Simonyi has flown to the station twice.

The price for flights has ranged between an estimated $20 million and $35 million.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the NASA image of the International Space Station with Earth serving as a backdrop. You also can click the enlarged image for a bigger, more detailed view. The photo was taken by the crew of STS-132 after their departure from the International Space Station last May.

No comments: