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Russia Preparing To 'Fight' Over Space Tourism Supremacy

Russia Preparing To ‘Fight’ Over Space Tourism Supremacy

Russia is set to compete with billionaires, the United States and China in an ambitious bid to relaunch their fledgling space tourism industry, according to AFP.

In its first tourist launch in 12 years, the Kremlin sent two adventurers to the International Space Station (ISS) – Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezwa and his assistant. Next, Russia is mulling plans to add a special module onto the ISS for visitors to be able to take spacewalks outside the station, and eventually, trips to the moon.

“We will not give this niche to the Americans. We are ready to fight for it,” Russian space chief Dmitry Rogozin told reporters at a press conference related to the Maezawa launch.

In the early 2000s, Russian space agency Roscosmos was sending wealthy tourists to space on a regular basis – which came to a screeching halt in 2011 after NASA retired its shuttle for astronauts and booked every available Roscosmos seat for the next decade.

Russia’s firebrand space chief Dmitry Rogozin has talked up plans for a visitor module at the ISS and trips around the moon Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV POOL/AFP/File

After Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched a successful trip to the ISS, however, NASA dropped Roscosmos, freeing up seats for tourists at a cost of $90 million per flight. The change left the cash-strapped Russian space agency in difficult shape, compounded by budget cuts and corruption scandals.

In short, Russia had no choice but to start opening seats up to tourism – starting at an estimated $50 – $60 million per seat, which covers the cost of constructing the three-person Soyuz spacecraft in order to shuttle a crew of two, and a rich passenger to make the endeavor financially feasible.

“The Russian space industry is reliant on consistent orders for these launches,” industry analyst Vitaly Yegorov told AFP.

In addition to operating funds, Russian space tourism is about pride.

“It’s national prestige. It gets young people interested in manned spaceflight. It’s the future, after all,” says Dmitry Loskutov, head of Glavkosmos — a subsidiary of Roscosmos responsible for commercial projects, including tourism.

Russia, China and the US are the only three countries capable of manned flights, however competition from newcomers such as SpaceX, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson has put pressure on the Kremlin to beef up their program.

According to Andrei Ionin of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, sending people into ‘simple’ orbit for a few minutes like the above newcomers are doing is no comparison to actually boarding the ISS.

“It’s like comparing the Ferrari and the Renault market,” he said – a point echoed by Loskutov, who said that the SpaceX and Bezos ‘Blue Origin’ trips were more a part of the “entertainment industry” than real space travel.

According to Rogozin, the potential new ISS module would be a “separate tourist module,” which could allow for the possibility of new routes – such as following the path of the first human in space – Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

Tyler Durden
Sun, 12/19/2021 – 22:15

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