Russia's Space Agency has signed a deal that would make a US millionaire scientist only the third tourist to visit the International Space Station, a spokesman said.
The scientist, Gregory Olsen, could fly to the orbiting station as early as October, when the next Soyuz mission is scheduled to bring supplies and a new crew to the station, Vyacheslav Davidenko, a spokesman for the Russian agency, said on Wednesday.
Olsen, the 60-year-old founder of an infrared-camera maker based in the state of New Jersey, resumed training in May at a site just outside Moscow for the flight on a Russian-built Soyuz spaceship. He confirmed on Wednesday that the contract had been signed.
"I'm feeling great and hopeful that I will launch this fall," Olsen wrote in an e-mail exchange with an Associated Press reporter. "Training has been very intense, but enjoyable."
The cost of the flight is US$20 million, according to Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures of Arlington, Virginia, the company that signed the deal with Russia.
According to Olsen, the crew for his flight has not been officially announced, but he has worked with two other crew-members in the Soyuz simulator over the past week. Part of that training, at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City near Moscow, included donning a pressurized space suit. Olsen also said he runs almost every morning.
"This training has given me tremendous admiration for cosmonauts and astronauts who have spent years doing this and know so much more than I," Olsen wrote.
Olsen works out regularly with a trainer, is an avid ballroom dancer and otherwise stays physically active.
His trip, originally scheduled for this April, had been on hold last summer because doctors in Russia found an undisclosed health problem during a physical exam.
That ailment was never revealed, but this past May the Russian space programme gave Olsen medical clearance. Marshall Cohen, president and co-founder of Olsen's company, Sensors Unlimited Inc, outside Princeton, New Jersey, said in May that Olsen's US doctors reported that he had no health problems.
Source: China Daily