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Russia Prepares to Send First Female Space Tourist to Space Station


Final preparations are under way for the launch of a Russian spacecraft that will carry a cosmonaut, an American astronaut and the world's first female space tourist to the international space station.

Forty-year-old Iranian-American Anousheh Ansari will become the world's first female space tourist, when the Expedition-14 Soyuz rocket blasts off from a launch pad in Kazakhstan early Monday.

Ansari, who left Iran in 1984, is paying an estimated $20 million to become the fourth amateur astronaut to visit the orbiting station.

Russian officials say Ansari and the two-man crew will circle the earth for about two days as they catch up to the space station.

Ansari is set to return to earth on September 28, along with the space station's two current inhabitants - astronaut Jeffrey Williams and cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov.

Ansari's two travel companions will remain on the station to help German astronaut Thomas Reiter, who arrived in July, with a series of celestial construction projects.

Ansar lives in the U.S. state of Texas. She and her husband run a venture capital and home-networking technology firm. She will be conducting several experiments for the European Space Agency. She is writing an on-line account of her eight-day journey.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.