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Russia seals agreement with private investor for space tourism

by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) July 2, 2008
The Russian space agency has sealed a deal with a private investor to build a Soyuz spacecraft specially for tourist hire and operational in 2011, a statement said Wednesday.

"We have concluded an agreement with an investor to begin financing such a Soyuz vessel with an anticipated launch date of 2011," the Roskosmos website stated.

The craft, piloted by a professional astronaut, is designed to carry two so-called space adventurers.

Quizzed by AFP, a Roskosmos spokesman refused to identify the investor despite the agency having signed a deal in June with private American company Space Adventures for a commercial flight to the International Space Station.

Set up in 2001, Space Adventures has already sent five tourists into space on board a Soyuz.

The firm has been in negotiations with Roskosmos to rent the third seat on board a ship which regularly ferries Russian and American astronauts to the ISS.

American Dennis Tito, South African Mark Shuttleworth, Greg Olsen of the United States, Iranian-born Anousheh Ansari and Hungarian-born Charles Simonyi are the five who have each paid up to 25 million dollars (16 million euros) for the thrill of a lifetime.

The next independent space traveller is Richard Garriott, an American electronic games entrepreneur and son of former astronaut Owen Garriott. His flight is due to take off in October.

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Fly me to the Moon: Japan firm offers weddings in space
Tokyo (AFP) July 1, 2008
A Japanese firm on Tuesday began accepting reservations for couples who really want to make the big leap -- by blasting into space to exchange their wedding vows.

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