Touring space mission one

Summary: Dennis Tito, was the world’s first space tourist funding his own trip. He spent nearly 8 days in space in mid-2001 as a crew member of the ISS EP-1. In this article we will be looking at the events that took place leading up to, and during the mission, and the future of space tourism.

Space Flight

Ever since the first spaceflight back in 1961 when Yuri Gagarin (first man in space) was launched into orbit on the Vostok 1, humans have been fantasizing with the idea of touring space. Within a few hours of the Russians sending the first human into orbit a whole new world of opportunity presented itself, but it won’t be until 2001 when the first space tourist, Dennis Tito, would become the first paying candidate for commercial spaceflight.

According to wikipedia the project was arranged by MirCorp, and Tito was accepted by the Russian Federal Space Agency, but was met with criticism from the American National Space Agency (NASA) believing it to be inappropriate to allow tourism in space. “…We will not be able to begin training, because we are not willing to train with Dennis Tito,” was the statement given by Robert D. Cabana, NASA manager at the time, after sending Tito and two other cosmonauts home.

Instead of giving up on his dream of touring space Tito made an arrangement with space tourism company ‘Space Adventures,’ an American space tourism company founded in 1998 by Eric C. Anderson, where he managed to get the training required for Tito’s first ever tour of space. Tito was then allowed to join the Soyuz TM-32 mission on April 28, 2001, becoming the first space tourist in history, before docking with the ISS (International Space Station).

MirCorp was initially seeking potential candidates for space tourism to the Mir space station in order to offset some of its maintenance costs, but later the decision was made to de-orbit Mir, Tito was forced to change his destination to the ISS instead through a deal with Space Adventures. Tito reportedly paid $20 million USD for his trip and spent 7 days, 22 hours, and 4 minutes in space orbiting around the Earth 128 times in the ISS, and doing several experiments, before undocking, and re-entering into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Dennis Tito was the first paying space tourist, but he wouldn’t be the last. A year after Tito’s trip he was followed by South African Mark Shuttleworth in the Soyuz TM-34 spacecraft, and then in October 2005, by Gregory Olsen in the Soyuz TMA-7.

The Soyuz Missions

The Soyuz spacecrafts was manufactured by Russian ballistic missile, spacecraft and space station components producing company, Korolev, also known as RSC Energia, and would regularly ferry cosmonauts to Mir and ISS before the Mir got de-orbitted.

The Soyuz TM-32 was the space craft charged with taking the first paying space tourist, Dennis Tito, along with a Russian, Yuri Baturin, and a Kazakh, Talgat Musabayev (the launching Commander on this mission), to space on April 28th, 2001.

Two days after the launch the Soyuz TM-32 docked at the ISS (International Space Station) where it would remain until October 31st of that year, serving as a lifeboat for Expedition 2, and later the crew of Expedition 3.

A lifeboat in the sense that if something were to happen on the ISS to trigger emergency evacuation procedures, like a sudden decompression, or a fire that may be the result of various events, the people onboard can use the Soyuz TM-32 space craft to escape from danger, and to get home safely. After the disaster of Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrating upon re-entry into the Earth’s Atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts aboard, the Soyuz program was temporarily put on hold because Soyuz vehicles became the only available transport to the ISS until the return of the space shuttles in 2005. Space tourism resumed in 2006 when an Iranian American businesswoman named Anousheh Ansari became the fourth space tourist on the Soyuz TMA-10.

Since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011, the Soyuz was once again forced to stop the space tourism project. However, on June 7th, 2019, NASA announced plans to open the ISS to be met with tourism once again.