Space tourist will be allowed to fly, source says
WASHINGTON (AP) – California tycoon Dennis Tito will be allowed to visit the International Space Station as a tourist despite concerns about his safety, a NASA official says.
The space station’s international partners are expected to meet Monday and sign an agreement to let the Russians deliver Tito to the orbiting lab for a one-week stay, the official said Friday.
The visit is to be ”an exception” and does not mean that the space station is now open to receive tourists on a regular basis, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Tito paid the Russians $20 million to ride aboard a Soyuz spacecraft with a Russian crew scheduled to dock with the space station in May. If he makes the flight, Tito will become the first person ever to buy his way into space.
NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs acknowledged that space station managers were looking at the crew’s work schedule for early May ”to see what could be done if he does fly to make it safer.”
Jacobs insisted, however, that the international partners have not yet made a final decision to allow Tito on board.
The international partners on the space station, called Alpha, are the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and the European Space Agency. NASA earlier expressed dismay that Russia had independently made a deal to fly Tito to the space station.
Some NASA officials had asked that the tourist trip be deferred until October to allow for six to eight weeks of training they said was required to prepare the 60-year-old millionaire for the trip. There was concern that without the benefit of the training, Tito’s presence on the station would be hazardous to himself and the crew members.
Members of the Soyuz crew boycotted one day of training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston last month when NASA officials refused to let Tito join them in exercises.
Tito originally signed on to fly with a Russian crew to the aging Mir space station. After the Mir was decommissioned, and eventually dumped in the ocean, Tito switched his ticket to the Alpha.
He refused to delay his flight, saying that waiting longer would keep him from his family and his job as chief executive at Wilshire Associates in Santa Monica, Calif.
”There’s a point where you just have to draw the line,” Tito said.
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