September 28, 2009

Russian Rocket Readied For ISS Flight

The founder of Cirque du Soleil along with two other astronauts prepared for launch to the International Space Station on Monday aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket.

Russian space agency officials readied the launch vehicle at the Gagarin's Start launch pad, where the Yuri Gagarin set off to become the first man in orbital space in 1961.

Guy Laliberte, 50, spent about $35 million to reserve his spot on the Soyuz. He will spend 12 days aboard the orbiting outpost, and is expected to be the last space tourist to board the station for at least a few years due to the upcoming retirement of NASA's shuttle fleet.

"Currently, there are no clear prospects for space tourism, but it all depends on the Americans," Alexander Vorobyov, Roscosmos spokesman told the AP. "The heads of NASA and Roscosmos are due to meet (Wednesday), so we cannot make any calls on this just yet."

Laliberte spent months in training alongside Russian astronaut Maxim Surayev, who will be making his first visit to the ISS and American Jeffrey Williams, who will be making his third trip to the station.

"They have really gelled, even though they have only been training with Guy for about a couple of weeks," Williams' wife, Anna-Marie, told the AP. "They feel very solid as a crew."

"He's doing it for fun, but it's more to realize a childhood dream," Laliberte's girlfriend, model Claudia Barilla, told the Associated Press.

Laliberte will return to Earth in October along with Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and American Michael Barratt.

The launch will be broadcast live Wednesday on NASA TV.


Image Caption: Russian security officers walk along the railroad tracks as the Soyuz rocket is rolled out to the launch pad Monday, Sept. 28, 2009 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz is scheduled to launch the crew of Expedition 21 and a spaceflight participant on Sept. 30, 2009. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls


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