January 28, 2009

Ultra-Wealthy Line Up To Pay Millions For Space Trip

During a recession that has many industries under pressure as consumers cut spending, the space tourism business is booming, thanks to enthusiastic demand by ultra-wealthy clientele.

"Business is good," a Reuters report quoted Eric Anderson, CEO of Space Adventures, as saying on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The privately-held U.S. firm has sold about $175 million worth of seats on Russian rockets to the International Space Station (ISS). 

The company is planning to send Charles Simony, a Hungarian computer software executive, on a $35 million trip in to space for the second time in March.   It will make the seventh such trip arranged by Space Adventures since multimillionaire Dennis Tito purchased his space visit in 2001.

And several other clients, such as Google co-founder Sergey Brin, have already submitted deposits for space travel.

In the future such space trips could become tricky as Russia plans to double the size of its ISS crew.   But Space Adventures inked a deal with Russia's Federal Space Agency last year to launch its own private journey to the ISS in 2011.

"Access to Soyuz seats is becoming more difficult, which is why we purchased our own mission," said Anderson, referring to Moscow's Soyuz spacecraft.

Anderson is working to generate additional clients among the world's business elite in Davos this week. 

But potential customers shouldn't expect any discounts due to the global financial slowdown.  Indeed, the standard rate for a trip to the ISS is between $35 and $45 million.  And for an additional $10 million, clients will have the opportunity to become the first private citizen to perform a spacewalk.


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