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Archive for Sunday, April 28, 2002

Tourist welcomed aboard space station

April 28, 2002

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— A South African space tourist on Saturday received a warm welcome aboard the international space station and settled in for an eight-day, seven-night stay that cost him $20 million.

Internet entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth is the second person to pay his own way into space, and by all looks, he considers the money well spent.

The 28-year-old smiled broadly as he floated into the space station and was embraced by its three occupants. One orbit, or 1 1/2 hours later, South African President Thabo Mbeki called to congratulate the first African citizen in space.

"It's amazingly roomy," Shuttleworth told the president.

A year ago today, California money manager Dennis Tito became the world's first paying space tourist, courtesy of the Russians.

NASA opposed Tito's trip, saying he would interfere with space station work and possibly even endanger the crew. The Russians prevailed, however, and the rift between the programs lasted for months.

To avoid further conflict, NASA and the space agencies of Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan established criteria for future space station visitors. Shuttleworth met all the guidelines and went through eight months of cosmonaut training.

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