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Russia sends another tourist into space


MOSCOW, July 7 (RIA Novosti) - The Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) announced Wednesday that it would earn $20 million from space tourism this year.

A popular daily, Gazeta, reported Thursday that an American multi-millionaire Gregory Olsen, 59, had signed contract on flying to the International Space Station (ISS).

He will be the third space tourist after Dennis Tito (U.S.) and Mark Shuttleworth (South Africa), who flew to the ISS in 2001 and 2002, respectively.

"A contract between Roskosmos and Space Adventures, which sent Tito and Shuttleworth into space, was signed a few days ago," Roskosmos press secretary Vyacheslav Davidenko said. The flight is scheduled for October 2005.

Olsen, who is the president and chairman of Sensors Unlimited Inc., should have flown to the ISS last October. Although the contract had not been signed last year, Olsen began training in Russia's cosmonaut training center in Star City near Moscow.

However, the first training sessions in the centrifuge revealed that Olsen had health problems, and doctors said he should not fly.

Nevertheless, the American still wanted to see Earth from space and so followed a plan drawn up by the Russian doctors to get into shape. An international medical group declared him fit to fly May 30, the paper wrote.

However, Roskosmos still has to agree on Olsen's candidacy with its ISS partners. So far, the officially approved crew of Soyuz TMA-7 consists only of Valery Tokarev and William MacArthur. Olsen himself said he was optimistic and felt like a 30-year-old. He dismissed the idea that people of his age should think about retirement, and said instead they should start thinking about a new life.

If Olsen's health should fail, Sergei Kostenko, head of the Space Adventures office in Moscow, will replace him under the contract. He is currently also in training.

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