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Astronaut Norm Thagard becomes the first American to ride a Russian rocket during this March 1995 launch to Mir.

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The Russian space station Mir over Earth in 1997.

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MirCorp's Future Is Barometer For Space Business
MirCorp President Begs Russia to Help Save Space Station
The ISS won't be hosting paying guests anytime soon -- at least not as far as NASA is concerned.
By Andrew Bridges
Pasadena Bureau Chief
posted: 07:00 am ET
01 November 2000

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As a trio of pioneer astronauts takes up residence at the International Space Station (ISS) this week, the first thing they might want to do is flick on the "No Vacancy" sign.

For the station, an eight-year, $60 billion, 16-nation effort, wont be hosting paying guests anytime soon at least not as far as NASA is concerned.

"While were building the ISS, this is not the time to do something like that. In the early part of the program there is lot of work to be done and equipment to be installed. Its not a pleasure cruise," said Brian Welch, a NASA spokesman.

At least one paying tourist may visit space next year all the same, but aboard a different ship. American businessman Dennis Tito is scheduled to make a $20 million trip to the Russians Mir this winter, thanks to MirCorp, the company seeking to lease the space station for commercial and tourist use

However, the Russians short the $200 million it would take to maintain the teenaged Mir through 2001 may well scuttle that plan by crashing the orbital outpost to Earth.

That would leave Tito, MirCorp and the winner of the upcoming reality-based television program Destination: Mir without a destination.

However, should Mir fall, the Russians may allow tourists to fly to the cooperatively built and owned Enterprise module on the ISS, a joint project of SPACEHAB and RKK Energia, Russia's largest aerospace firm. Enterprise is tentatively scheduled to be launched in 2003.

But such a venture would first have to be cleared with all the international partners involved in the station. A task far more complicated than smaller commercial deals, like say, sewing a beer company-emblazoned patch on a Canadian astronauts uniform.

"If a proposal was going to affect life aboard the station andday-to-day operations and the environment -- which something like [tourists] would do -- all partners would have a say in that," Welch said.

However, NASA will not even consider such a proposal while the ISS is under construction, a task that will take at least until 2006 to complete.

"Its not what anyone would be able to consider lodging. Its got a real industrial feel, out there on the frontier," Welch said. "We wouldnt rule out entertaining notions like that in the future, but right now were not interested."

 

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