Would-be tourists vie for next space visit

Singer, soccer mom seek seat on fall Russian flight

April 28, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - As Mark Shuttleworth, a South African millionaire, prepared to take up residence on the International Space Station as the world's second space tourist, a line formed to be the next such visitor.

The candidates for the next tourist seat on a Russian flight to the station in October or November include a member of the pop music group 'N Sync, a woman who calls herself a soccer mom and a wealthy Polish businessman.

A Soyuz spacecraft launched Thursday docked with the space station early yesterday. Aboard for a week's stay are the mission commander, Yuri P. Gidzenko, who has done a 140-day tour aboard the station; a rookie Italian astronaut, Roberto Vittori; and Shuttleworth, 28, an Internet entrepreneur, who, according to estimates, paid $20 million to fulfill his dream of going into space.

The visitors are there to trade their fresh Soyuz for one that has been attached to the station for six months as an emergency lifeboat for the orbiting laboratory's permanent crew of three people.

The Soyuz craft are swapped twice a year, and tourists are vying for a seat on the next flight.

Lori Garver, 40, of McLean, Va., the self-styled soccer mom, said Friday that she was thrilled with Shuttleworth's flight because it increased the chances that others would visit the space station.

Garver, a former NASA associate administrator for policy and long a space enthusiast, is hoping to get businesses, foundations, educational organizations and others to pay for her ticket.

DFI International, the Washington planning and consulting company where Garver is a vice president, is backing the effort to send a woman into space who is neither an astronaut nor a millionaire.

A leading competitor for the next Soyuz flight is Lance Bass, 23, of 'N Sync, who says he has been fascinated with space since attending space camp in Florida when he was 12. He is backed by Destiny Productions, a Los Angeles company, which said it would pay for the trip through corporate sponsorship and by producing television specials about the venture.

The Russians must pick a candidate, or more than one, by the end of next month and begin training then.

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