Google visionary turns eye on space

Plugged In

June 12, 2008|By Cox News Service

NEW YORK - Sergey Brin, who co-founded Google Inc. to organize all the information on Earth, has now turned his gaze to space. Brin slapped down a $5 million deposit so he can blast off to orbit, Space Adventures Ltd. said yesterday.

Brin becomes the highest-profile customer to date for the private space travel company, which since 2001 has sent five wealthy clients to the International Space Station aboard Russian rockets. Each ticket cost $20 million or more, a price that's climbing.

Next to go is video game designer Richard Garriott of Austin, Texas, who is scheduled to take off on Oct. 12 on a $30 million trip. Garriott, whose father was a NASA Skylab and space shuttle astronaut, would become the first second-generation U.S. space traveler.

Garriott said yesterday at a news conference that he planned to conduct several government and commercial experiments in orbit, such as researching proteins for drug companies. He also intends to connect with gamers from space through his online science fiction world Tabula Rasa.

No launch date has been set for Brin, but his payment gives him priority access to future available spots, the company said. He still must pay a hefty balance for his fare, which may cost more than $35 million.

"I'm a big believer in the exploration and commercial development of space and am looking forward to the possibility of going into space," Brin said.

Space Adventures, founded a decade ago and based in Virginia, also has agreed with the Russian space agency to launch the first dedicated, private mission to the station in the second half of 2011, Chief Executive Officer Eric Anderson told reporters at the historic Explorer's Club in Manhattan.

The mission will have two seats for paying passengers on the three-person Russian Soyuz, with the third for a professional cosmonaut. Previously, the company has paid for single spare seats on Soyuz already scheduled for space station visits.

Private space launches, sometimes called space tourism, have brought needed cash to the Russian space program.

However, doubts have surfaced about the future of such trips after the Russian space program chief said in April that the country might have fewer Soyuz seats to sell because of the planned expansion of the space station crew in 2010.

Anderson said the 2011 private trip is an additional mission paid for by Space Adventures. He would not reveal the cost of the mission, which is for sale to individual clients, businesses and institutions.

The overall cost of flights also has been rising because of the weakened U.S. dollar and labor and materials expenses with the spacecraft, spokeswoman Stacey Tearne said.

Brin, who has the option of selling his reserved seat, bought the first of six "founding explorer" slots that allow the owners to go to space later when their schedules permit, Space Adventures said.

Google's leaders have long been interested in space travel. The company is sponsoring a $30 million competition for the first private team to send a robot to the moon that travels about 1,500 feet and sends video and data back to Earth.

Garriott, an early Space Adventures backer, said all the private investing in his career has been for the privatization of space.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.