September 20, 2006

Female Space Tourist Arrives at ISS

KOROLYOV, Russia (AP) - The capsule carrying the first paying female space tourist docked smoothly at the international space station Wednesday.

Officials at Russia's Mission Control applauded as the ship carrying Iranian-born American telecommunications entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and U.S. astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria parked at the orbiting station.

The three had blasted off in the cramped TMA-9 capsule Monday from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Ansari is the fourth private astronaut to pay a reported $20 million for a space station visit.

The new arrivals join German astronaut Thomas Reiter and two crew members who are due to return to Earth with Ansari on Sept. 29.

Four space walks are planned during Tyurin and Lopez-Alegrias' six-month stay, with as many as three in January to help set up the station's permanent cooling system. Another will take place earlier to retrieve and install experiments on the station's exterior.