With millionaire financier Dennis Tito’s flight to the international space station (ISS), Russia dragged its
ISS partners kicking and screaming into the era of commercial space tourism
Tito launched aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan April 28, 2001.
For the 60-year-old Tito it was a return to the field in which
his career had begun. Before making his fortune as the founder of the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Wilshire Associates investment management firm, he helped design spaceflight trajectories for the Mariner 4 and Mariner 5 interplanetary space probes at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Tito had a contract, announced in 2000
by Amsterdam-based broker MirCorp
to fly to the Mir space station, but that deal
fell apart when the Russian government decided to deorbit the venerable space station.
earlier that year
Tito received a proposal from Space Adventures Chief Executive Eric Anderson to invest in his company, Space Adventures spokeswoman Stacey Tearney
said in an April 22 e-mail. But
instead of becoming an investor, Tito wanted to fly to the ISS
as a customer, Tearney said.
Space Adventures of Arlington, Va., had been in negotiations with Russian officials since 1999 on the feasibility of a flight to the then yet-to-be-built international space station, she said.
brokered the deal between Tito and Russian officials, which called
for Tito to pay $20 million for the adventure, Tearney said.
Yuri Koptev, then
general of Russia’s space agency Ros
, told Space News in
that signing Tito as a space tourist provided a way for Russia to raise funds to meet its ISS
While Tito received
from Russia’s space agency, arrangements had not yet been made with NASA or the other
NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) publicly voiced their objections to Tito’s planned visit to
the space station.
“It is irresponsible to send amateurs to [the international space station]
as long as it has not been proven and is completely operational,” Jorg E. Feustel-Buechl, then director of manned spaceflight and microgravity for the ESA,
told Space News in early 2001
Then NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin called the trip a distraction for the professional crew on board ISS, especially since Tito’s visit would coincide with the arrival and installation of the
station’s robotic Canadarm2.
Space historian Roger Launius said NASA was well within its rights to object to Tito’s visit to ISS
since it was a commercial venture seeking use of a government facility.
NASA’s opposition to Tito’s flight came to a head when the U.S. space agency refused Tito
entry to its Johnson Space Center in Houston. He was there to train for the U.S. side of the space station with his prospective crewmates Talgat Musabayev and Yuri Baturin. Tito already had trained with Musabayev and Baturin
in Star City, Russia.
The standoff, which lasted a few days,
cast NASA in a negative light with the public,
who generally supported Tito’s spaceflight attempt,
Launius, space history chair at the National Air and Space Museum here, said in an April 18 phone interview.
Ultimately the U.S. space agency’s hard-line tactics “didn’t stand up to public pressure,” Launius said.
After Tito signed a waiver freeing NASA of responsibility if harm should befall him and several other contingencies, the agency
agreed to allow Tito on board.
By refusing to allow its public affairs division to promote Tito’s
NASA missed out on a public relations boon, Launius said.
The U.S. space agency, however, did learn from its mistakes when it embraced
the next four space tourist
trips, starting with South African Internet entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth in April 2002
, Launius said.
While Tito’s spaceflight opened the gates for a new commercial venture
– orbital spaceflight
– it also showed it still is a rich person’s game, Launius said. The latest would-be space tourist, Richard Garriott, a computer game designer and
son of astronaut Owen Garriott
paid about $30 million for his trip, scheduled to launch in
1959: NASA announces it has signed a $24 million contract with Douglas Aircraft Co.
to develop the Delta launch vehicle
1961: NASA successfully tests the Mercury capsule’s abort system at Wallops Island, Va.
The Little Joe (LJ-5B)
rocket flew the capsule on a lower trajectory than planned, but the escape rockets performed well and the Mercury capsule survived in good shape.
1998: Arianespace launches Egypt’s first satellite, the Nilesat 101 communications satellite, and BSat 1B,
a Broadcasting Satellite Systems Corp.
communications satellite, on an Ariane 4 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana.
2003: NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (Galex) space observatory is air-launched on a Pegasus rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Galex was designed to study the evolution of galaxies.
three-stage rocket launches from
Wallops Island, Va. The sounding rocket, built by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ Pilotless Aircraft Research Division, consisted of
two Nike rockets topped by a Deacon rocket
1985: The NASA Space Shuttle Challenger launches from Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The STS-51B mission carried the joint NASA-European Space Agency Spacelab-3 containing several microgravity experiments.
1949: Dutch-born, U.S. astronomer Gerard Kuiper discovers Neptune’s moon Nereid.
2000: The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES-11 meteorological satellite launches on an Atlas 2 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
1976: NASA’s Laser Geodetic Satellite (Lageos), designed to take geodetic measurements of Earth, launches on a Delta rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
1979: The U.S. Navy’s Fleet Satellite Communications (Fltsatcom)-2 spacecraft, which provided communications links
between Navy vessels
launches on an Atlas-Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
1989: NASA’s Magellan space probe is deployed from
Space Shuttle Atlantis during
the STS-30 mission. Magellan was sent on a mission to study Venus.
1994: The Indian Space Research Organisation launches its Stretched Rohini Satellite Series-C2 on an Augmented Space Launch Vehicle booster from Sriharikota.
2002: NASA’s Aqua environmental satellite, formerly known as Earth Observing System PM-1, launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on a Delta 2 rocket to study the planet’s water cycle.