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Space Tourist Says Trip Worth Millions

October 4, 2005

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A rich entrepreneur scientist who bought his own ticket to the international space station said from orbit Tuesday that the trip was worth the millions of dollars he paid, and his only fear on launch day was not going.

“I’m having a great time. I mean, this is a dream come true,” Gregory Olsen said at a news conference broadcast from the space station.

“This is my fourth day and I’m really enjoying it,” he added. “Just to look out and see the Earth from about 230 miles up is just great.”

The best part, Olsen said, is “just being here.” As for the reported $20 million he paid for the 10-day trip, “It’s like the price and value argument. This is something I wanted to do, I love doing, so to me, yes, it’s worth the money.”

With his launch aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket on Saturday from Kazakhstan, Olsen became the world’s third paying space tourist. He made his fortune with Sensors Unlimited Inc. of Princeton, N.J., a company that makes devices for fiber-optic communications and infrared imaging. He is chairman of the board of directors and a co-founder.

Olsen said he was not afraid during liftoff.

In fact, “as soon as that rocket launched, I was the most relaxed I’ve been in two years. I’ve had some ups and downs on this thing,” the 60-year-old said, referring to his lengthy delay in flying for unspecified medical reasons.

“The only thing I was nervous about was maybe I wasn’t going to go. And once I felt that rocket push off from the ground, I just felt that sense of relief and joy. The Russian Space Agency has a great safety record and they’re great at space, and with a crew like this, how could you go wrong?”

He said he has not suffered any of the typical space motion sickness.

Olsen arrived at the space station Monday with NASA astronaut William McArthur and Russian cosmonaut Valery Tokarev, who will spend the next six months aboard the orbiting complex. The scientist, who holds a doctorate, will return to Earth early next week with astronaut John Phillips and cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, who have been in orbit since April.

Phillips said he can’t wait to devour “a hot steaming pizza and a big cold mug of beer,” once he’s back on Earth. Krikalev said a good cup of coffee, and fresh fruit and vegetables, sound good to him.

California money manager Dennis Tito visited the space station in 2001 and South African Internet entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth in 2002, in similar deals negotiated with Russian space officials.

On the Net:

NASA: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov




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