July 6, 2005

Russian Space Agency Signs Tourist Deal

MOSCOW -- Russia's space agency has signed a contract with Gregory Olsen, a spokesman said Wednesday, in a deal that would make the U.S. millionaire scientist only the third tourist to visit the international space station.

Vyacheslav Davidenko, a spokesman for the Russian agency, said Olsen could fly to the orbiting station as early as October, when the next Soyuz mission is scheduled to bring supplies and a new crew to the orbiting station.

Olsen, a 60-year-old scientist and founder of a New Jersey-based infrared-camera maker, last month resumed training for the flight on a Russian-built Soyuz spaceship at a site just outside of Moscow.

Terms of the deal were not immediately released, but earlier reports said the flight could cost $20 million.

Russian news reports said the deal was brokered by Virginia-based Space Adventures, the company that arranged trips for the only two other people that have traveled to the orbiting station as tourists - American Dennis Tito and South African Mark Shuttleworth.

Officials at Space Adventures or at Olsen's company could not be immediately reached for comment.

Olsen, who holds advanced degrees in physics and materials science, has said he plans to bring along several of his company's state-of-the-art infrared cameras to do science experiments.

The orbiting station's current inhabitants - Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev and U.S. astronaut John Phillips - arrived there in April on a six-month mission.