South African Internet billionaire Mark Shuttleworth, 27, is training for a space trip to the International Space Station, according to a Russian news agency. Shuttleworth is undergoing medical tests at Russia?s space city of Zvezdny (which means Star City), the main Russian cosmonaut-training center. The announcement was made two days after Rosaviakosmos Yury Koptev, the head of Russia?s space agency, announced that no space tourists would be launched to the ISS until 2006.
At a meeting in Quebec of the heads of the five space agencies involved in the ISS project, Koptev said that his agency had received requests from people interested in becoming non-professional cosmonauts. But he stressed that future visits would happen only after the International space station is completed in 2006.
Shutttleworth hasn?t signed a contract with Russia yet, but he is likely to become the second space tourist launched by Russians. Despite NASA?s opposition, Californian Dennis Tito visited the ISS in April, paying $20 million for the trip of a lifetime.
NASA opposed Tito?s trip on safety grounds, and U.S. officials insisted he had not received adequate training and could endanger the ISS crew. But Koptev insisted that Tito was properly trained and that there was no risk in allowing him to fly to the station.
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