The company that arranged for two millionaire businessmen to fly on Russian space missions announced on Wednesday that it will send two tourists together on the first privately-funded odyssey to the International Space Station which orbits 400 kilometers above the earth's atmosphere.
If you want to ride aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in early 2005, the cost of a round-trip ticket is $20 million.
Space Adventures, a Virginia-based company, the Russian Aviation and Space Agency and RSC Energia, Russia's largest aerospace company, have signed an agreement to fly two private citizens simultaneously to the International Space Station.
Eric Anderson, the president of seven-year-old Space Adventures, says that within the next decade, he hopes to send about 10 tourists a year into space.
"I can't think of many things that have motivated, captivated and educated people over the last 40 years as much as space exploration has," he explained. And private citizens, space tourists, private explorers going into space is a critical part of that for the future. It's about sharing that experience. It's about going where people haven't been before, and bringing that experience back and motivating the next generation of explorers."
A Russian cosmonaut will man the spacecraft for the eight-to-10-day journey into space, which is scheduled to lift off from Kazakhstan. Applicants must undergo a medical examination to qualify for the trip, and will train at the cosmonaut training center outside of Moscow.
American businessman Dennis Tito flew in 2001 and South African Mark Shuttleworth flew last year, both aboard missions that were already planned by the Russian space agency. Mr. Tito says it was an unforgettable journey.