- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2001

The Arlington, Va. space-travel firm that got California financier Dennis Tito to space in April has brokered a deal to have the Russian Space and Aviation Agency taxi another person to the International Space Station.
Eric Anderson, chief executive of Space Adventures Ltd., said yesterday that Russian space officials agreed to take South African Internet entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth aboard a Russian Soyuz flight next year.
"I think this is a very good indicator that there are people willing to pay for space travel, even for very high-end travel," said Mr. Anderson, who started his alternative-adventure company in 1997 to arrange trips to space.
Mr. Anderson declined to disclose how much Mr. Shuttleworth will pay to travel to the space station. Mr. Tito is widely believed to have paid $20 million for his astronomical journey. Though other civilians have traveled to space, including three congressmen and a Japanese reporter, Mr. Tito was the first to pay for a ride.
"Mr. Tito's trip inspired a lot of people," Mr. Anderson said.
Space Adventures began negotiations with the Russian space agency in June to get Mr. Shuttleworth a seat on the next Soyuz taxi flight. Space Adventures has worked with Russian space officials since August 1999 to arrange trips to the space station. It also has brokered zero-gravity flights on Russian cargo planes and supersonic flights on a Russian MiG-25 that travels about 2.5 times the speed of sound.
Mr. Shuttleworth was unavailable for comment yesterday. The 28-year-old native of Cape Town has started a training program at the Russian space agency's Star City, Russia, facility. Yesterday, he was fitted for a spacesuit that will be custom made.
He said in a statement that he has dreamed of space travel since he was a child.
"I hope and anticipate my journey will inspire South African youth and increase their interest in science and technology," Mr. Shuttleworth said.
Mr. Shuttleworth plans to carry out a series of scientific experiments while in space, including biomedical research on HIV and AIDS.
"He definitely doesn't intend to be just a space tourist," Space Adventures spokeswoman Tereza Predescu said.
The Soyuz is expected to take off with Mr. Shuttleworth on April 27 or 28, and he will be in space for eight days, Mr. Anderson said.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration initially objected to the Russian space agency's decision to take Mr. Tito to the space station earlier this year. NASA is a partner in the International Space Station with Russia, Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency.
But NASA won't object to Mr. Shuttleworth's adventure. The U.S. agency already has given preliminary approval to his trip.
"It appears there are no problems. All the partners have agreed in principle," NASA spokeswoman Debbie Rahn said.
NASA's objections to Mr. Tito's landmark trip stemmed from the absence of guidelines outlining what rules International Space Station partners would follow when taking civilians to space, including what training they should undergo prior to the journeys.
Now those rules are nearly complete. It is unlikely Mr. Shuttleworth will be the last person the Russians take to the space station.
"Space Adventures is actively working with [the Russian Space and Aviation Agency] towards providing future flights to the ISS for private explorers," Russian space agency spokesman Sergey Gorbunov said in a statement.
But demand in space travel among civilians is so high, Mr. Anderson said, the Russian space agency will be unable to shuttle all the people to space who want to go.
Mr. Shuttleworth acquired his fortune through Thawte Consulting Ltd., a technology company he founded that markets digital signatures encrypted, electronic signatures sent with electronic documents to ensure they aren't tampered with to Web-site owners and software companies.
VeriSign Inc., a Mountain View, Calif., technology company that also makes encryption software to protect electronic data, bought Thawte Consulting for $652 million in February.

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