SA millionaire trains to become space tourist

Cape Town

SOUTH African millionaire Mark Shuttleworth has confirmed that he is undergoing training in Russia to become the next paying space tourist, it was reported on Friday.

The Cape Times newspaper quoted Shuttleworth as saying he began “intense” training at the Star City astronautical centre outside Moscow on Tuesday to in a bid to be selected for a rocket trip into space.

Shuttleworth, who made his fortune in information technology, said space travel had been a childhood dream and that he was learning Russian to cope with the training. According to his spokesman, a Russian rocket is expected to be launched into space in October.

If Shuttleworth makes the trip he will follow in the footsteps of American millionaire Dennis Tito who became the first paying tourist in space when he in April and May he was taken to the International Space Station (ISS) as a guest of the cash-strapped Russian space programme.

He paid $20-million (24 million Euros) for the eight-day trip which angered the US space agency NASA because, they claimed, it could endanger the lives of the crew.

Shuttleworth declined to say how much he was expecting to pay for his planned trip but claimed that it would stimulate interest in science in underdeveloped South Africa.

“My journey into space will get everyone — from the Cape Flats to Bishopscourt (the richest and poorest parts of Cape Town) — interested in space and technology.” The Russian space agency in May said it would not have seats available to take tourists in space for at least the next two years and would not take anybody until it had reached an agreement with NASA on rules for selecting, training and sending amateur astronauts into space.

But in the same month Russian space constructor Energiya said it was considering several applications from people hoping to emulate Tito. -AFP

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