Space Adventures: Orbital Tourism to continue…
Despite claims that the current space tourist, Charles Simonyi, would be the last one for years, there may be another paid space traveler as soon as September.
That’s the word from Space Adventures, the company which handles orbital flight to the International Space Station via the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
Had been selling “empty” seats
Until now, Space Adventures has been booking unused seats aboard the Russian spacecraft. But with ISS crews doubling from 3 to 6, there may be no more empty seats. It will take two 3-person Soyuz vehicles to send up new crews. None would be available for paid space travelers.
When the space shuttle retires next year, the Russian Soyuz will be the only way to rotate crews to the ISS.
And no seats would be left for tourists, for years. At least, that was the theory.
Another open seat?
Eric Anderson, CEO of Space Adventures, now says that there may be an available seat in a Soyuz flight in late September. If so, the bet is that the seat would go to Esther Dyson, a wealthy entrepreneur.
It is unclear why that seat would be available.
Future orbital flights
Space Adventures is planning to have Soyuz spacecraft built and flown exclusively for them, starting in 2012. These vehicles would carry two space tourists and one professional cosmonaut pilot.
Another possibility that might open up Soyuz seats sooner: a private company, SpaceX, is working on a vehicle that could launch astronauts to the ISS after the shuttle retires, and before the new American manned space vehicle, Orion, becomes ready several years down the road.
This is possible, but hardly inevitable.
Meanwhile, a number of wealthly people who really want to go into space will need to hold their breath…and wait for their turns.