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Third 'Space Tourist' Blasts Off Into Space 83

auckland map writes "A Russian Soyuz rocket has lifted off from the Central Asian steppes, launching U.S. millionaire scientist Gregory Olsen and a new Russian-U.S. crew on a two-day journey to the international space station. Olsen is reportedly paying $20 million for this trip." From the article: "The cash-strapped Russian Federal Space Agency has turned to space tourism to generate money. Olsen is the third non-astronaut to visit the orbiting station. California businessman Dennis Tito paid about $20 million for a week long trip to the space station in 2001, and South African Mark Shuttleworth followed a year later."
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Third 'Space Tourist' Blasts Off Into Space

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  • by physicsphairy ( 720718 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:07PM (#13694752) Homepage
    ...I am willing to offer a one year tour around a nearby star, getting at a distance of about 1 AU. To maintain the comforts of gravity and atmosphere, I have identified a suitable location on a nearby planet. The external atmosphere contains mild contaminants, however, should be quite breathable. A mass particle transport utility shall be provided upon receipt of first half of my requested sum.
  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:09PM (#13694758) Journal
    Does that mean these guys are being drugged, shown a couple of movies for a week, and released having been fleeced of their millions? If that's true, I'm sure these Russian space guys will get hired by Hollywood...

    If they could just get us to believe that file sharing is wrong?
  • by Nuclear Elephant ( 700938 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:13PM (#13694775) Homepage
    Olsen is reportedly paying $20 million for this trip.

    Big deal. It costs me about that much to commute too these days.
  • Smart guy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by evil agent ( 918566 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:14PM (#13694781)
    According to Dr. Gregory Olsen's bio [], his company has been developing optoelectronic devices and that "This cutting edge camera technology is revolutionizing detection capabilities and providing reliable, high performance products used for a variety of critical military, national security, telecommunications and industrial applications such as covert surveillance, machine vision, night vision, health and safety protocols, historical art inspection and many others."

    Perhaps we shouldn't have let this guy get too acquainted with the Russians...

    • The Russians are OK, If he was flying with the Chinese THEN we worry. I suspect there would be a "horrible accident" and Dr. Olsen would be killed (i.e. disappear until they could get all the technology secrets from him).
      • I think the Russians will sell [] the Chinese whatever they want:

        Where does China turn when it shops for military weapons? In a word, Russia. According to the Russian Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), China constitutes the largest single importer of post-Soviet Russian arms and military equipment, with purchases ranging between 30% and 50% of Russia's entire annual deliveries.

        Without those arms exports to China, Russia would lack the funds to modernize its own military. In fact, in

        • I don't doubt the Russians would sell their Grandmother to who ever had the money. But the Chinese could cut out the middle man and get it for nothing if they had Dr Olsen. Of course getting it for nothing is just good business for the "Chinese Capitalists";) They also then might have something better than what the Russkies offer which of course they would sell/trade back.
  • by brian.glanz ( 849625 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:21PM (#13694810) Homepage Journal
    "Don't call him a space tourist" [] as Alan Boyle says.

    Let's say scientist, engineer, inventor, or maybe inspiration [] (his bio at his company's site).

    • He's a guy who paid $20 million to get into space. That's a tourist.
      • by brian.glanz ( 849625 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:58PM (#13694962) Homepage Journal
        "Tourism can be defined as the act of travel for the purpose of recreation, and the provision of services for this act. A tourist is someone who travels at least fifty miles from home, as defined by the World Tourism Organization (a United Nations body)." []

        50 miles: check.

        recreation: not so much, no.

        Olsen paid for access to a laboratory in which he will study things he could not anywhere else, such as crystal growth and infrared imaging sensor performance. Even during the two-day Soyuz journey to the ISS, Olsen is operating some oxygen systems and filling other small but necessary roles. He's spent the last several months training more as a member of the crew, even learning Russian (mandatory). He is not just along for the ride.

        Sounds like a great holiday to me, but as a matter of respect and perhaps even by definition, I would not call him a tourist.

        • Bullshit. He's contriving some experiments - some of which are irrelevant to his work, some that can be done on earth, and some of which have well known results. He's there because he wants to be there, period, not because he needs to be. That's pleasure, not business. A tourist.
          • "He's contriving some experiments"

            Nonono. _He_ is the _experiment_.

            He's the third in a series of experiments. The first was the pioneering experiment involving Dennis Tito as test subject.

            These space experiments are probably more noteworthy and useful than any of those conducted by the NASA in recent years.

            NASA did the Mars probe thing decades ago. Now they're trying to do the moon thing again. When did NASA become a branch of Hollywood? ;).

            BTW, the test subject becomes a tourist if the newspapers/media don
            • Then you've simply created a tautology, he's no less a tourist than my cat would be if I gave them $20M to take her in space. The difference between him and NASA is he didn't earn his spot there, he *bought* it. He's an unqualified person who bought a ticket somewhere. Tour-ist.
        • recreation: not so much, no.

          You don't call floating around in zero gravity recreation? Sounds like a good time to me...
        • It is a business venture if it can be reasonably expected to turn a profit. If he could pay NASA or Russia to do the experiments for less, then this is not the wisest business venture. If he really expects to make in excess of $20 million off these experiments (and he'd prolly have to fight for the patent, since he did it in an international lab), it's business, otherwise it's at least partially pleasure.

          Oh, and all those guys who go to Hawaii or Las Vegas for business conferences and spend half the tim
  • by reality-bytes ( 119275 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:23PM (#13694825) Homepage
    You would think that any manned spaced launch (and many unmanned ones) would be important News for Nerds wouldn't you?

    Still, this story hits the front page about 17 hours after the launch.

    I did know it was going but perhaps some would have watched on TV if they knew the launch was taking place ie: Slashdot could run a story *beforehand*.

    For those of you who missed the live video, the footage was excellent, gorgeous steady tracking footage was provided by a telescope mounted camera followed by live in-capsule footage right through all the stage burnouts (never seen *live* interior shots on a shuttle launch) and then about 15 mins of on-orbit initial operations footage. I thoroughly recommend watching the live feed for the Exp 13 launch.

    Plus the crew had a cool little troll (the little plastic ones) on a bungee to show the capsules movements on orbit.
    • "Plus the crew had a cool little troll (the little plastic ones) on a bungee to show the capsules movements on orbit."

      Too bad some of the /. trolls couldn't have been taken up into orbit too... and jettisoned.

      Hmmm... that's actually an idea...

      Someone loan me $20m. :D
    • I learned long ago to deal with the news lag from slashdot. You shouldn't read slashdot, if timeliness is the most important reason for reading news (well, the comments from posters can actually be very timely even for an old story). 17 hours actually isn't bad.
    • It doesn't really make much sense to attempt to "predict" launches. Very seldom do they happen at the time they're originally planned. If it's not a delay caused by equipment malfunction in any one of the thousands of complex components of the vehicle, or ground support, it's weather.

      More than once, I've driven out to Vandenberg in the middle of the night to watch a launch, and ended up having to go home disappointed. Spacelaunch is not a spectator sport! (though, when you get lucky, they're great to wat
      • The last three manned launches from Baikonur I watched live (Exp 10, 11, 12)

        They went on time as advertised (Exp 12 actually launched in 'moderate' weather).

        Now I fully understand the reason, the Shuttle has to be 'just right' to launch because there are very few abort options whereas the Soyuz can be (and has been) aborted in most if not all stages of flight.

        Certainly, if it was a Shuttle Launch, you could say that any pre-advertised launch could be raising false hopes but a Soyuz cancellation is 'unusual'
    • You would think that any manned spaced launch (and many unmanned ones) would be important News for Nerds wouldn't you?

      As an avid space enthusiast, I personally look forward to the day that a manned space launch is just as unremarkable and routine as a manned air launch.
    • Still, this story hits the front page about 17 hours after the launch.

      Just wait a few months and you can comment how old this will be on the second, third, fourth and fifth time the story hits our frontpage.

      In the 6 years I've been here, I'm pretty sure this is the first time a story was actually posted within 24-hours of the event.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:28PM (#13694849)
    Google reports 1040 hits [] of "cash-strapped" near "Russian space agency". I don't intend to add great insight here, but in today's sophisticated capitalist societies, there must be other synonyms much as the Eskimos supposedly had 40 words for snow.
    • I subscribe to the reverse Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. I'm convinced that the Eskimos migrated to the arctic because they had forty words for "snow."


    • Good point. NASA wouldn't be letting Hubble whither if it was not also "cash-strapped". The Russians are being good entreprenurers, not "cash-strapped". They are better capitalists than we are. Perhaps the author is jealous.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Not to mention the Russians latest export venture, selling Soyuz space capsules to a country unable to fund the research and development of its own space craft...The United States (link []).
      • Perhaps the author is jealous.

        More likely, the cited journalist is lazy. It's a mystery to me how these cliches linger. It can't require that much brain power to shuffle some phrases around.

    • "Google reports 1040 hits [] of "cash-strapped" near "Russian space agency". I don't intend to add great insight here, but in today's sophisticated capitalist societies, there must be other synonyms much as the Eskimos supposedly had 40 words for snow."

      You're asking quite a lot from our imagination strapped journalist brethern.
  • Now, when we have American in orbit, we can take more aggresive stance towards payments-for-flights. We could not do that day ago because we could've scared him off, running away from Baikonur :) "We will also discuss compensation for McArthur's return because formally speaking we don't have any such obligation, either."
  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @06:08PM (#13695005)
    > "The cash-strapped Russian Federal Space Agency has turned to space tourism to generate money."

    "...Meanwhile, the American cash filled Space Agency (NASA) is still unable to put men into space...even after billions of dollars have been spent!"

    To me, we Americans still do not get it! Clearly, of the two space agencies, one of them is doing or getting it right. Can we say it is we the Americans? I doubt, but stand to be corrected.

    • To me, you are a troll.

      NASA does put people in to space. It is a risky business, but the risk is no more or less with the Russians, statistically speaking.

      I'm not saying NASA is perfect, by any means. I'm not an American either. But your rhetoric is just wrong.
    • "Cash filled Space Agency" and NASA in the same sentence?

      1965 NASA budget: 5 billion (rough 28 billion in todays $$)

      2006 NASA budget: 16 billion

      In 1965, NASA was only concerned with putting a man on the moom.

      Today, NASA is working (all at the same time, mind you) towards:

      Putting a man on Mars.

      Sending dozens of rovers to Mars.

      Putting satellites in orbit over Moons of the Gas giants.

      Continue operation of objects leaving the Solar System.

      And about a dozen other operations and projects of varying im

      • by tftp ( 111690 )
        The RKA only builds rockets and LEO spaceships, it does not really manufacture or manage satellites and probes. In USA, for example, JPL does most of the satellite work, along with the private sector, so this division of labor is not out of the ordinary.

        In Russia, space science is done by the Academy of Sciences, as you can see at the IKI Web Site [], for example. Communications satellites are done by other organizations, civilian as well as military.

        With regard to your question, the list of current and

      • In addition to "basic earth orbit" capability (i.e. all the records that Mir holds), the Russians also explored the moon with a series of robotic rovers (google for "lunakhod"), and even retrieved lunar samples back to earth via robotic unmanned missions (call me when NASA achieves this). The Russians are also the only country to have a probe land on Venus and take photos of the searingly hot surface.

        Oh yeah, and let's not forget that the Russians are the ones keeping the ISS alive via regular trips by robo
  • Twenty million is a non trivial amount of money. And I suppose he is doing some experiments of his own up there, but how much time does $20 million buy your average space tourist on the go? And how much return on investment are his experiments likely to generate for him?

    If the duration of the stay is long enough, I suppose that you could conceivibly do some worth while research. I wonder what the cost would have to drop to for various large corporations to be willing to pay the cost to put some of their
  • by leighklotz ( 192300 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @08:01PM (#13695446) Homepage
    According to the ARRL [], two schools will get to talk to Greg Olsen (KC2ONX []) via ham radio:
    Onboard the Soyuz transporter will be Expedition 12 Commander Bill McArthur, KC5ACR [], Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev and space tourist Greg Olsen, KC2ONX [], of Princeton, New Jersey. ... While in space, Olsen plans to conduct Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) school group QSOs with two schools in New Jersey and one in New York. Following joint crew operations, Expedition 11 Commander Sergei Krikalev, Flight Engineer John Phillips, KE5DRY [], and Olsen are scheduled to return to Earth October 10 in the Soyuz vehicle now docked at the ISS.

  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @09:13PM (#13695741) Journal
    According to the site for Sensors Unlimited [] (Olsen's company), Dr. Gregory Olsen will be doing a number of live webcasts from the International Space Station, from October 3-7.
  • non-astronaut?? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by interactive_civilian ( 205158 ) <{mamoru} {at} {}> on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:00PM (#13695940) Homepage Journal
    From TFSummary:
    Olsen is the third non-astronaut to visit the orbiting station.
    Stop me if I am wrong, but doesn't "astronaut" mean "space traveler"? How does this make him a non-astronaut?

    Or is it because, since he went up with the Russians, he is a "Cosmonaut"?

    Seriously, this guy is going up there and doing some science, rather than just hanging out for the ride. He must have gone through some training in order to be able to go, regardless of the money he spent.

    So, unless by "non-astronaut" you mean "cosmonaut", you are insulting the man, rather unfairly IMHO.

  • Did anyone else read that wrong and thought he was a 'Third Space' tourist? Haven't we learned fron the ancient races?!

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter