August 25, 2006

U.S. woman to become first female space tourist

MOSCOW -- Anousheh Ansari, a U.S. citizen of Iranian origin, will become the world's first female space tourist when she blasts off aboard a Russian rocket on September 14, the launch company said on Friday.

Daisuke Enomoto, a Japanese entrepreneur who had hoped to lift off in a Soyuz spaceship, was deemed unfit for the 10-day journey by a medical commission earlier this week.

Ansari, a 39-year-old chairwoman and co-founder of Prodea Systems, Inc., a digital home technology company, will be the world's fourth space tourist.

"Anousheh Ansari has been officially named to the Soyuz TMA-9 primary crew," Space Adventures, working in partnership with Russia's space agency Roskosmos to launch space tourists, said in a statement.

"The first female spaceflight participant will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on September 14, 2006, en route to the International Space Station along with the Expedition 14 crew members: NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin."

U.S. entrepreneur Dennis Tito pioneered space tourism, flying to the ISS in April 2001. He was followed by South African Mark Shuttleworth in April 2002 and American Greg Olsen in October 2005.

Space tourists are reported to pay the Russians about $20 million for the trip and a 10-day stay in orbit. This is believed to be the cost of a Soyuz rocket launch. Russian officials keep contracts with space tourists confidential.