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Thread: U.S. tycoon rides Russian rocket into space

  1. #1
    BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan — A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying U.S. millionaire scientist Gregory Olsen lifted off today from the Central Asian steppe, launching the world's third space tourist on a two-day journey to the international space station.

    The rocket streaked off into the blue sky, trailing blindingly bright yellow and pink flames, as a crowd of the crew's family members and friends, as well as Russian and U.S. space officials, watched from a viewing platform at the Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

    The rocket was to enter its initial orbit after the first two stages of the rocket separated on schedule.

    The 60-year-old founder of an infrared-camera company based in Princeton, N.J., reportedly paid $20 million for a seat on the Expedition 12 flight.

    In the hours leading up the launch, Olsen and the two crew members tested systems in the capsule. Olsen, who holds advanced degrees in physics and materials science, defended his presence in the capsule as a necessary step in the evolution of space travel.

    "I would hope that my flight would help, if just to make space flight more routine," Olsen said.

    "One hundred years ago, airline flight was reserved for only a few brave souls. Everyone flies [on planes] nowadays. The same will be true of space flight."

    Meanwhile, Russian and American officials held tough talks on the future of joint space missions, with NASA's chief warning that Moscow's demands for payment could end U.S. participation.

    NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said a 2000 U.S. law banning space-station-related payments to Russia because Moscow helped Iran build a nuclear plant "could end a continuous American presence" on the station.

    The cash-strapped Russian Federal Space Agency has turned to space tourism to generate money. Olsen is the third non-astronaut to visit the station: California businessman Dennis Tito paid about $20 million for a weeklong trip to the space station in 2001, and South African Mark Shuttleworth followed a year later.

    Olsen made his fortune on optic inventions. He is the co-founder of Sensors Unlimited, a company that makes infrared imaging cameras and fiber-optic communications components.

    At a preflight news conference with cosmonaut Valery Tokarev and astronaut William McArthur, Olsen said he preferred the term "space-flight participant" to "space tourist."

    " 'Tourism' implies that anyone can just write a check and go up there. That's not what happened," he said.

    Olsen's flight was pushed back after Russian doctors found an unspecified medical ailment that since has been cleared up. He was cleared for flight in May.

    McArthur, a retired Army colonel, has made three space shuttle flights, including one to the Russian space station Mir. He said he had no doubts about the safety of the Soyuz TMA-7 capsule.

    The space craft will rendezvous in two days with the station floating 250 miles above the Earth. Olsen, Tokarev and McArthur will bring cargo aboard and perform experiments.

    The station's current inhabitants, Russian Sergei Krikalev and American John Phillips, arrived in April and are scheduled to return with Olsen on Oct. 11, touching down in Kazakhstan.

    Since the 2003 Columbia disaster grounded the U.S. shuttle fleet, Russia's Soyuz and Progress spacecraft have been the workhorses of the joint space projects, shuttling crews and cargo to the space station. Discovery visited the station in July, but problems with the foam insulation on its external fuel tank have cast doubt on when the shuttle will fly again
    Dream, I do.

  2. #2

    !** I'M CooL.....I MaKe Ice JeaLouS **!

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