NASA agrees to Shuttleworth's flight

Washington | Wednesday

THE US space agency NASA has agreed in principle to allow a South African millionaire to become the world’s second space tourist on the International Space Station, a representative said on Tuesday.

Mark Shuttleworth (28) signed a contract with the Russian Space Agency earlier this month to travel aboard a Soyuz shuttle to the space station in April 2002, for a 20-million-dollar fee.

“NASA and its international partners have agreed in principle to the flight of Mr Shuttleworth, and we are in the process of formalising that approval,” NASA representative Kirsten Larson said at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

“The fundamental issue for us is that we need a formalised process that we can all agree to, that governs how to select and train people to go to the space station,” she added.

“We are almost to the point where we have agreed to these crew criteria with our international partners.”

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has thus made a 180-degree turnaround on the issue of space tourism after vehemently opposing until the last minute US businessman Dennis Tito’s $20-million ISS trip.

US officials eventually approved Tito’s trip last spring when it became clear that their Russian counterparts were not going to back down.

Shuttleworth, a resident of Cape Town who made his fortune in Internet consulting and developing e-commerce security, is expected to travel to the ISS with Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gidzenko and Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori. - Sapa-AFP

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