Tourists to fly to outer space not until end of next year

Flights by space tourists to the International Space Station (ISS) can be resumed, said Wednesday Vyacheslav Mikhailichenko of the Russian Aerospace Agency press-service. He confirmed that Russia's Energia space rocket corporation has signed a relevant contract with the USA's Space Adventures.

Under this contract, the latter has reserved two seats on the Russian Soyuz-TMA spaceships to carry tourists to the International Space Station. The document signed enables this company to start selecting visitors to the space station in the category of "non-professional astronauts." According to Russian Aerospace Agency head Yury Koptev, tourists will be accepted at the international space station not until the second half of 2004. "A tourist programme will become clearer for us after the resumption of flights by American space shuttles," he said. "If they start flying to the ISS from the beginning of next year, we shall be able to send the first tourist on board the Russian manned ship Soyuz TMA in the autumn of the same year. If shuttles begin to be launched in the second half of 2004, space tourists might be invited to fly only in 2005," said Koptev.

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