Exclusive Space Tourism Party in London Draws Rich Adventurers
"Multi-millionaire Space Cowboys Queue Up to Take Tourism to the
: Dozens of Britain's multi-millionaires will gather in London next
: month to compete for a prize that is "out of this world". At stake
: is a place on the world's first entirely commercial space mission, a
: visit to the International Space Station (ISS), and the title of
: Britain's first ever space tourist. At £12m, the full board, en
: suite "holiday" will not come cheap, but there is no shortage of
: The American company behind the project, Space Adventures, will hold
: a party in the capital in a fortnight, where more than 50 of the
: nation's wealthiest individuals will be briefed on the mission - set
: to take off from Kazakhstan in early 2005. Those invited include
: the Virgin boss Richard Branson and the Blur guitarist Alex James
: - both believed to be keen on experiencing space travel first-hand.
: The rest of the guest list is thought to include an assortment of
: celebrities, aristocrats, entrepreneurs and sports personalities.
: Mr Branson could be an early front-runner for the seat. A friend of
: the Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, who sits on Space Adventures'
: advisory board, Mr Branson has already registered his Virgin
: trademark for space travel. His company, which owns the name "Virgin
: Galactic Airways", is known to have been monitoring opportunities to
: get into commercial space flight at ground level for some years.
: Another of the invitees is the millionaire property developer Chris
: Drake, who last year travelled to the edge of the atmosphere in a
: Mig aeroplane, courtesy of Space Adventures' British sister company,
: WildWings. "I just find what they're doing incredibly exciting,"
: said Mr Drake, 41, speaking from his yacht moored off the Spanish
: coast. "The mindset of the public is locked in the idea that it's
: just astronauts who can go into space, but it's not - ordinary
: people can do it too. "I think £12m is a fair price. Once people
: realise how attainable space travel is becoming, I'm sure that price
: will come down for subsequent trips.
: Also present at the exclusive event in London next month will be the
: former US astronaut Norm Thagard, who now works closely with Space
: Adventures. "The UK has a long tradition of producing explorers
: willing to push the frontier," said Thagard, the first American to
: fly on a Soyuz spacecraft. "It's only natural that the same drive
: should apply to space as well."
Mark Reiff e-mail: markreiff@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
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