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American space mission commander praises space tourists

RIA Novosti

11/05/2007 16:38 ZVEZDNY GORODOK (Moscow Region), May 11 (RIA Novosti) - The American commander of Expedition 14 to the International Space Station, called space tourism "a good idea" as his crew returned to the base near Moscow Friday.

Michael Lopez-Alegria acknowledged he changed his originally negative attitude to space tourists when he saw how two of them - Iranian-born Anousheh Ansari, a U.S. businesswoman, and Hungarian-born Charles Simonyi, a founder of Microsoft Corp. - who went to the ISS as space tourists adapted to space conditions and helped crewmembers in their work.

Lopez-Alegria, Simonyi, Russian flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin and German European astronaut Thomas Reiter shared their experiences from the mission.

Simonyi, the fifth space tourist in history, said his space-themed Web site had generated over 30 million visitors and added he was happy to let people learn more about the station and the Russian space industry.

The U.S.-based Space Adventures Ltd., the only company currently providing opportunities for space tourism, charges around $20 million per Russian-organized private mission.

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration had previously voiced concerns about the tourists' safety and usefulness.


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