US entrepreneur Dennis Tito will spend a week aboard the Russian Mir space station next April on the first of a series of "Citizen Explorer" missions designed by MirCorp to raise funds to keep the ageing Russian space station in operation.


Tito, a former NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer who now owns California-based investment firm Wilshire Associates, will pay MirCorp up to $20 million for the mission with two cosmonauts. Tito has passed initial medical tests, but will have to undergo more at the Star City cosmonaut training centre before he is passed fit to fly. MirCorp says it has entered initial discussions with several other Citizen Explorer candidates and the company is establishing an office in Moscow to co-ordinate the activities of what it hopes will be a corps of private space travellers.

Meanwhile, the cosmonauts who were launched to the Mir space station in April on the first mission funded by MirCorp, landed safely aboard Soyuz TM30 in Kazakhstan on 16 June. The 73 day TM 30 flight, used to conduct maintenance and refurbishing on Mir, is the first of a planned series of commercial missions by MirCorp.

This plan also includes "commercial uses that range from pharmaceutical research and traditional space activities to novel business activities such as an internet portal and real-time imaging of the Earth", says Jeffrey Manber, MirCorp's president.

Source: Flight International