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Russia approves Tito space flight
Posted: Wed, Apr 11, 2001, 10:59 AM ET (1459 GMT)
Dennis Tito on a Russian zero-g plane, courtesy Space Adventures Russian officials gave their approval Wednesday for California businessman Dennis Tito to fly to the International Space Station later this month as a member of a Soyuz crew. Tito will join cosmonauts Talgat Musabayev and Yuri Baturin on a Soyuz spacecraft scheduled for launch on April 28. The spacecraft will dock with ISS two days after launch and spend a week at the station before the crew returns in the Soyuz capsule currently attached to the station. While such "taxi flights" are meant to be routine — Soyuz spacecraft are rated for only six months in space before they must be replaced, and one must be docked to the station at all times to serve as a lifeboat for the station crew — Tito's inclusion in the crew has generated controversy. NASA and other ISS partner nations have asked Russia not to include Tito on the flight, saying the nonprofessional could jeopardize station operations during a critical period of the station's assembly. Both Tito, who is paying Russia $20 million for the flight as the first commercial space tourist, and Russia remain unconvinced of those arguments, and there appears to be little NASA can do to prevent Tito from flying to the station.
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