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NASA dropping opposition to Tito flight
Posted: Sat, Apr 21, 2001, 12:52 AM ET (0452 GMT)
Dennis Tito on a Russian zero-g plane, courtesy Space Adventures NASA has all but agreed to allow California businessman Dennis Tito to fly to the International Space Station late this month on a Russian spacecraft, according to various news reports. Russian officials said Friday that Tito was "definitely" included in the crew of a Soyuz scheduled for launch from Baikonur at 3:37 am EDT (0737 GMT) Saturday, April 28. NASA officials, who have staunchly opposed flying a nonprofessional like Tito at the present time, have apparently bowed to the inevitable and will, at the very least, no longer fight Russia on the issue. Time magazine reported on its web site Friday that NASA had dropped its opposition to Tito's flight late Thursday, citing unnamed sources close to the NASA-Rosaviakosmos negotiations as well as somewhat cryptic comments made by NASA administrator Dan Goldin during a press conference Thursday. NASA spokespersons refused to confirm or deny that report or a SPACE.com report that Tito will get the "full blessing" of NASA and the other ISS partners early next week. Both Time and SPACE.com said that Tito signed agreements with NASA to pay for any damage he causes while on the station and to indemnify the agency if he is injured or killed during the flight. A task force study into the issues regarding flying a nonprofessional like Tito to ISS is also scheduled to be released next week. Meanwhile, Russia may be exacting a little revenge for NASA's opposition to Tito's flight: Spacelift Washington reported Friday that Russia is barring Americans from a press pool that will cover the Soyuz launch from Baikonur.
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