Russia Says, "No More Billionaires In Space."

Remember when the Russian space program would fly anyone with $20 million burning a hole in their sock into outer space. Well those days are over.

Russia plans to increase its crew at the International Space Station from three to six people next year, leaving no room on their spacecrafts for enthusiasts willing to spend millions on an extraterrestrial trip. Even though its space program will be losing much needed revenue, Russia has to honour its commitment to host astronauts from countries that helped built the station.

The last space tourist to the station – U.S. software designer Charles Simonyi, who has flown to the station once before – will blast off in March.

AP via The Chicago Tribune: Since 2001, the lurative Russian space tourism program has flown six “private spaceflight participants,” who paid at least $20 million for flights aboard Russian-built Soyuz craft brokered by U.S.-based Space Adventures Ltd. The most recent private citizen to fly aboard a Soyuz craft, computer game designer Richard Garriott, reportedly paid $35 million for his October trip.

The space station crew is expanding to six largely to accommodate Canadian, European and Japanese astronauts who have been waiting years to live aboard the station their countries have helped create.

…NASA will be even more reliant on the Russians after 2010, when the U.S. shuttle fleet is grounded permanently, leaving astronauts to hitch rides on Russian spacecraft until NASA’s new ship is available in 2015.

But there is still hope for those willing and financially able to venture in space. Private firms still offer trips into the galaxy, which much lower price thresholds, presuming you want to try your luck riding in their spacecrafts.

In recent years, several private companies, including Virginia-based Space Adventures, have raced to build operations to run private tours and other space adventures.

Rocketmaker Xcor Aerospace, based in Mojave, Calif., last month announced that a Danish man would be the first to ride aboard its privately funded, two-seat rocket ship. It has said tickets were selling for $95,000 each and reservations have been made for 20 flights.

Xcor’s main competitor—Virgin Galactic, part of British billionaire Richard Branson‘s Virgin Group—is building SpaceShipTwo, an eight-seat craft that is to take passengers about 62 miles above Earth for $200,000 each.

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