May 13, 2009

NASA To Pay Russians $51 Million Per Space Flight

Russian news agencies reported on Wednesday that the country will charge U.S. astronauts $51 million per return trip to the International Space Station (ISS) from 2012 and will resume selling seats to space tourists, Reuters reported.

Much like NASA's own shuttle fleet, Russia's Soyuz capsule will soon be retired after nearly 3 decades in service.

However, a replacement for its space shuttle is not due until at least 2014.

Interfax quoted Anatoly Perminov head of Russian space agency Roskosmos as saying that Russia's own plans for a new spacecraft are running behind schedule, with the planned unveiling of a mock-up now delayed by a year to 2010.

Itar-Tass news agency reported that Perminov spoke of an agreement between the Russian space agency and NASA to the sum of $51 million, to begin in 2012.

But it is still unclear what astronauts will be charged between 2010 and 2012.

Russia charged the United States $21.8 million per return flight to the ISS in 2006. The price for a space tourist ticket to the ISS has climbed to $35 million from $20 million since that time.

U.S. billionaire Charles Simonyi's March flight to the ISS would be the last by a space tourist, according to Roskosmos. It stated that increasing the space station crew from three to six would leave no room for amateur space tourists.

However, Perminov was quoted as saying that the Soyuz now has one free seat, as Kazakhstan has canceled its plans to send a trained cosmonaut into space this September.

He told Itar-Tass that the tourist would not be the last and that this form of tourism would continue in the future.

After the U.S. shuttle ceases operations next year, NASA and all other partners will be solely dependent on Russia for crew transport.

Apollo-style capsules that will be capable of both flying astronauts to the space station and to the moon's surface will replace the current shuttle fleet by 2015.


Image Caption: Backdropped by a blue and white Earth, this close-up view features the Soyuz TMA-6 spacecraft approaching the International Space Station (ISS). NASA


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