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SCIENCE REPORT - March 14, 2002: Space Tourism - 2002-03-13

This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

Would you like to orbit the Earth inside the International Space Station? Now you can take a space holiday — for a price. This is due to a recent decision by top space officials of the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and the European Space Agency.

Last April, American businessman Dennis Tito reportedly paid between twelve-million and twenty-million dollars to spend one week on the International Space Station. NASA had strongly objected to the Russian plan to permit a civilian on the costly research vehicle. After two years of negotiations, space officials have agreed on a process to train private citizens to take trips to the International Space Station.

NASA recently agreed to conditions that will permit Russia to sell trips to the space station. The trips are planned by an American company called Space Adventures Limited of Arlington, Virginia. The company calls itself “the world’s leading space tourism company.” The company has sold a space trip to Mark Shuttleworth, a South African businessman. In April, Mister Shuttleworth will be launched into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Experts say the change in policy at NASA shows a new desire to use space vehicles for business and industrial purposes. In a speech to Congress last year, NASA official Michael Hawes said that the space agency had not considered civilian travel as one of the industries it wanted to develop. However, Mister Hawes said that private space travel could now be done as long as safety measures are observed carefully.

Yet, the average citizen will not be able to travel into space in the near future. Space Adventures Limited sells a training program for space flight that costs two-hundred-thousand dollars. That price does not include the cost of the trip to the International Space Station. That holiday in space costs twenty-million dollars.

Candidates for adventure space travel trips must be in excellent health and must pass difficult health tests. They must receive a lot of training. However, Special English can help you prepare for a space holiday. This is because all successful candidates who wish to travel to the International Space Station must be able to read and speak English.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by Mario Ritter.