Earth’s First Self-Financed Astronaut

By Keith Cowing
December 10, 2000
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Soyuz Dennis Tito wants to fly into space. He has wanted to fly in space since he first saw Sputnik arc across the night sky in October 1957. Since he didn’t make the one in a million cut to be a government astronaut, he chose the only other alternative available: he’s buying his own ride into space.

How Tito came to be in this position is, surprisingly, not totally based upon money. While Tito is undeniably wealthy, there are many people with similar resources – and many whose wealth vastly exceeds Tito’s. But they aren’t pushing to buy tickets to space – at least not yet.

Rather, this is a tale of someone being inspired at an early age and not letting themselves be deterred from the realization of a dream – a dream shared by millions of us who grew up during the early days of the so-called “space age”.
Somewhere along the way he had the good fortune (and perseverance) to make enough money to let him act on this dream in a way few of us can. If his dream is fulfilled it may have the effect of opening up space as a place where others can visit – if for no other reason than the sheer joy of going there. This is not lost on Tito.

Tito originally bought a ticket aboard a Soyuz spacecraft to Russia’s aging Mir space station as part of a larger commercial effort to keep Mir aloft. Specifically, he is a participant in MirCorp’s “Citizen Explorer” program. With that effort now more or less at an end, many of the commercial and governmental players involved in the Mir deal have sought to shift Tito’s destination to the other space station in orbit – the International Space Station.

If all goes according to plan Tito will board a Soyuz and visit the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2001. Riding in a spacecraft isn’t like it is in the movies – it still requires some considerable training. As such, Tito has been hard at work being trained for his flight.

NASA Administrator Dan Goldin is not at all pleased with this prospect and has said so publicly in rather blunt terms. As is explained later in this article, Goldin’s protestations may soon be moot: all that is required is certification by the Russian Space Agency that Tito is a member of the Soyuz crew. Sources who have requested anonymity say that such notification has already been sent to NASA.

Dennis Tito’s path to space is a complex tale. The political complexities involved are complex and often confusing. Indeed, becoming a millionaire seems almost simple by comparison.

Evaporating Stereotypes

We’ve all been exposed to more than our share of fictional millionaires in space – from the terminally ill eccentric in “Contact” who goes to Mir for his health (imagine that!) to the evil misunderstood geniuses that seem to appear in every other James Bond movie – complete with their own space fleets. The genre is so saturated with them that they now resurface as exaggerated caricatures in the “Austin Powers” films.

We’ve also seen our share of tourists (and regular folks) in space ranging from Heywood Floyd, who, while on government travel orders, manages to sample a complete commercial space infrastructure in the venerable “2001: A Space Odyssey” (with virtually no fellow passengers) to ” average-naut’ Homer Simpson in the classic “Deep Space Homer” episode which seeks to lampoon as many space cliches as a 22 minute episode can hold.

Throughout it all it seems that space-faring millionaires and non-astronaut space travelers just don’t get any respect. That may well change in 2001. You see, Dennis Tito just doesn’t fit the stereotypes.

Dennis Tito: An Introduction

I spoke Dennis Tito by phone for a total of three hours. Within a few moments of beginning our first conversation I quickly formed a mental image of a rather normal, likeable guy. There is no faux accent or upper class air about Tito. He speaks plainly with a rather soft voice in a way that bespeaks confidence. He doesn’t hold his punches and speaks his mind without pausing to couch things in “correct” terms.

As for his net worth – you simply wouldn’t know it from the way he talks. As a matter of fact, he seems far more interested in telling you how often he runs (at age 60) and the G-loads he took in a Russian centrifuge than he does with anything relating to his wealth or personal success. So much for the “millionaire in space” stereotype – he’s quite normal.

Tito traces his interest in space to a night in October 1957 when he watched Sputnik streak overhead. He says that this fueled an inspiration for all things space and led him to a career in aeronautics and astronautics.

Ask Tito about space and he is quick to tell you that he sees space exploration as “humanity’s ultimate adventure with the eventual goal of getting out beyond our planet and colonizing others”. “The process will be similar”, Tito believes, “to the way that the American west, Australia (and other continents) and the oceans were explored”. Right now he sees humanity as being at the cusp of this frontier – a place Tito says he wants to be – in person. “I will not get a chance to go to Mars but I do have an opportunity to go into Earth orbit. To do so would be the fulfillment of a life’s dream”.

Tito’s path toward space is one he has been travelling for many years. Early in his career he tried to get into NASA’s astronaut program. Not being a pilot his services were not wanted. Temporarily deterred, he continued in his job at JPL gaining experience along the way.

Tito looks back at his days with NASA fondly. While at JPL Tito spoke of having the good fortune to work with James Van Allen on the Mariner 4 mission to Mars. Tito also worked on Mariner 5 mission to Venus and was involved in the mapping performed of Mars by Mariner 9. He did all of this while still in his 20’s.

“Back then (1960’s) the university education I got was substantive not just theoretical” he said. “They taught you not just how to design hardware but also how to develop analytical tools when needed. We didn’t have all of the handbooks back then that people have today. That background allowed me to do a lot of interesting things a JPL and later in my other activities.”

Eventually Tito felt the need to move on and left NASA. He went on to form Wilshire Associates, an investment banking consultancy based in Santa Monica California which quickly made him a millionaire. According to a MirCorp press release “Tito’s Wilshire Associates advises investors on about $1 trillion in assets, as well as directly managing about $10 billion in assets and providing analytical tools to some 350 institutions around the world. Wilshire Associates is perhaps best known for its Wilshire 5000 stock index.”

Characterizing the space program of the time, Tito said “We don’t really have a goal now. Back then, in the 1960’s – being in NASA – we were all excited. The public was excited. Now everything tends to be boring.” When asked how to fix this, Tito says “we need a clear goal – perhaps to explore and settle Mars. Something that programs can be organized around – and progress made”.

A National Space Council would be useful according to Tito. Instead of populating it with short term political appointees, as has been the case in the past, Tito suggests that we take the whole issue much more seriously and appoint people to such a body with terms that exceed the potential life of a presidential administration. Tito sees this council as being more of a Board of Trustees for NASA and the nation’s other space activities. He’d like to see such a Council manage space activities such that it would recommend selections to the President for its senior space program managers (i.e. NASA Administrator). This way plans and decisions could be made on the timescales appropriate for large national ventures such as the exploration of space.

An Opportunity Emerges

In 1991, while on a business trip to Russia, he met with the people who were running the USSR’s guest cosmonaut program. This was around the time that the USSR was starting to break up. Shortly thereafter his contacts more or less evaporated as the USSR was fell apart. Since it was unclear after that just who he should deal with, he dropped the issue but his interest did not fade.

In 1998 Tito watched as John Glenn accepted a free ride into space from the U.S. government. Tito (then 58) joked that he now saw that age was not going to be a problem.

I asked Tito when he first realized that he could amass the financial resources with the realistic expectation of flying into space. He said that this became apparent in 1991 when he visited the USSR. Given that an English woman and a male Japanese journalist had flown to Mir for $10 million, he could have pulled it off. “It would have been more of a stretch then but I still could have afforded it.”

While Tito and MirCorp have not revealed the exact cost of his trip to Mir, one MirCorp representative recently described it as being “between 12 and 20 million dollars”. Tito claims that the expense is something he can readily afford. The real cost, according to Tito is “picking up from a nice L.A. lifestyle and moving into a 2 room apartment in Star City and then attending classes for 8 hours a day” He said that this whole experience is “not unlike something someone would expect to go through in college in their 20’s” yet he is now 60.

A decade or so ago the thought of someone throwing millions of dollars at a personal trip into space might have raised some eyebrows and evoked mention of a few of the aforementioned stereotypes. Now, after a decade of dot com-fueled growth, the sheer number of millionaires is higher than ever before. Take into account the relative cost of this trip to Tito’s probable wealth, and you can see that this is not unlike a retired couple taking a first class cruise around the world.

Dennis Goes Back to School

A regular regimen of running and an eye on his diet have left Tito in rather good condition. Indeed, based on his lack of sightings of others exercising outdoors to Star City he seems to have the entire place to himself as a running course. The main challenge, however, according to Tito is intellectual. There is a lot of training – both physical and intellectual – involved in the certification to fly a third seat in a Soyuz.

As far as the physical training goes, there are some tests used that are no longer required for American space travelers. One involved time on a centrifuge at high G levels. As Tito tells it, he passed 8G exposure (oriented front-to-back) designed to be 2.5 times the maximum expected launch loads) with no ill effects. But this wasn’ t the hardest part. He was also exposed to 5G’s oriented head-to-toe. It is head-to-toe exposure that is considered much more grueling since this orientation during centrifugation pulls blood out of your head and can lead to blackouts.

One of the first symptoms one experiences on the path to blacking out during this manner of centrifugation is progressive loss of peripheral vision. The Russian centrifuge uses a ring of lights placed at different portions within a test subject’s visual field as an indicator of how much peripheral vision the subject has. Subjects are asked to press buttons to signify the maximum extent of what they can see. At maximum acceleration Tito was able to see lights at an orientation of 90 degrees – that is, he didn’t lose his peripheral vision. His trainers were rather startled and told him that he was the oldest person by far to have endured a ride on that centrifuge in such fine style.

As far as the intellectual training goes, there is a steady stream of instruction and training followed by oral examinations. On a regular basis, instructors give trainees oral exams. Students are informed in advance as to the material that will be covered.

Far from being just a passenger on a Soyuz flight, all individuals are trained for operational responsibilities on their mission. In addition to being trained for all contingencies during launch, orbital operations, and landing, Tito was also given routine operational training including such tasks as the changeout of CO2 canisters and other life support system tasks.

The classroom work can be equally grueling. It can also be a chance to get to know your instructors. One story Tito likes to recall is when he and his instructors sat down for an oral exam on various Soyuz and Mir systems. His interpreter was seated nearby. One of the instructors from Energia, wearing a stern face, asked him if he was ready for the tough questions that would follow. In his best Clint Eastwood imitation Tito stuck his hands out, gestured with his fingers, and made his own stern face, saying “make my day”. Everyone got a good laugh and the exam commenced.

Tito characterizes this exam as follows “they’d ask me a question and I would answer the question – and then add 6 more responses beyond the immediate scope of the question. After one hour of the two hours allotted for the exam, my instructors ran out of questions. So they asked me about my career, my house, and living in L.A. Oh yes: I got a perfect score.”

I asked Tito to describe the mood in Star City – given that the relations between Russians and Americans did not come off as all that friendly in Bryan Burrough’s book “Dragonfly”. Tito responded that “it may well have been that way during the time that those people (mentioned in the book) were here, but my experience has been 180 degrees from that. The people were very nice there and we all seemed to like each other”.

Tito was also somewhat humbled by the equality with which he was treated. There was this one time, he recalls, when he sat down to have drinks with a three star Russian General. “Here I was, just a trainee, and yet he treated me like a cosmonaut”. Tito attributes his wonderful experiences with the fact that he is not a government representative. As such “every little thing doesn’t run the risk of escalating into an international incident which seems to be what happened during events depicted in ‘Dragonfly’.”

If more people are to fly on Soyuz spacecraft as paying customers, one would expect that the infrastructure within Russia would’ have to be able to respond accordingly. Tito said that having seen various Russian space facilities – including Baikonur – he sees many instances of unused resources and capabilities and feels that Russia could easily handle an increase in training and operational support. However, to make a radical increase in capability some new infrastructure would be needed, Tito thinks.

Who Needs to say “Da”?

The issue of sending Dennis Tito into space isn’t as simple as it ought to be i.e. buying a ticket to go somewhere. If and when he climbs into that Soyuz it will only be after the Russian government formally tells the U.S. government that Tito is going to be a passenger. As mentioned earlier, the Russian Space Agency has sent a formal note to NASA in this regard – however its precise wording has yet to be released.

As such, Tito’s trip brings into focus the nature of how the ISS program is constructed and the weaknesses and opportunities inherent in the way the program works. Tito’s trip will also serve as a pathfinder. If space tourism is ever going to happen, having to get intergovernmental permission to do so is going to have a rather stifling effect. As such, how both NASA and Russian Space Agency (RSA ) work together in this issue will be critical in affecting how future commercial flights aboard Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS are carried out.

Understanding who’s who is crucial in trying to understand who is calling the shots in this drama. In the U.S. there is a rather clear and unquestioned demarcation between private companies and governmental agencies. This is not the case in Russia. Indeed much of the so called “commercial” infrastructure still has a substantial overlap with what we’d call “government.

The Russian company RSC Energia (38% of which is owned by RSA) is the contractor that built and now operates Mir; built and operated the ISS Service Module and operates the Russian portion of the ISS; and provides Progress and Soyuz missions to both space stations.

Enter MirCorp

Tito’s original deal was with the company MirCorp. MirCorp was founded by American financier Walter Anderson of Gold & Appel and investor Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria and is charted in the Netherlands. 60% of MirCorp is owned by RSC Energia with the remaining 40% owned by MirCorp investors. MirCorp has a business arrangement with Energia to utilize Mir. Mir was made available to Energia on a leased basis for commercial use by the Russian government when it was decided that the government did not have enough funds to keep Mir aloft and operational.

The arrangement between Energia, MirCorp, and RSA came about after a series of rumored commercial uses of Mir fell through. One involved a mysterious Philadelphia businessman. At least one other involved a Russian movie company. Both concepts evaporated well before they every became serious business propositions.

Russia had also pledged, under pressure from the U.S. to deorbit Mir before the assembly of the International Space Station got underway in earnest. U.S. concerns center around Russia’s chronic funding shortage and the perception in the U.S. that Russia cannot afford to fund both Mir and meet its responsibilities in the ISS program. The only lingering caveat to deorbiting Mir is the development of viable commercial means to keep Mir aloft and operational. Again, this is what MirCorp was designed to do.

At the time MirCorp began operations (January 2000) Mir was both falling apart – and out of orbit. Once the deal between MirCorp/Energia whereby Mir was leased by MirCorp had been put into place, and funds began to flow, a Progress tanker was launched in early February 2000 raise Mir’s orbit.

MirCorp raised the financing and was able to fund a two man repair crew which was sent to Mir in April 2000. During a 73 day mission commander Sergei Zalyotin and flight engineer Alexander Kalery were able to install new guidance system components, repair various life support systems, and raise the orbit of Mir. This was followed by another Progress mission, one also funded by MirCorp, which docked with Mir in April 2000.

Mir’s repair crew arrived back on Earth on 16 June 2000 leaving Mir unoccupied. Just as the crew was landing word began to surface that a Los Angeles business man had been chosen to be Mir’s first paying customer. Tito placed a portion of his fee in escrow and began training for his mission. Exactly when Tito would fly changed, it seemed, on a weekly basis as Mir’s future lurched from one option (or fate) to another.

In August, fueled by the inexplicable success of the CBS “Survivor” series, MirCorp announced that it had signed a deal with Mark Burnett, executive producer “Survivor” for a TV series titled “Destination Mir” which would air on NBC. According to the basic premise of the show contestants would vie for a seat on a Soyuz mission to Mir. MirCorp now had two paying customers. Tito’s flight was set for early January 2001 and Survivor Mir’s flight for some time in 2002.

Mir Corp also issued a press release wherein it claimed to have “entered initial discussions with several other Citizen Explorer candidates, and flights to Mir will begin in 2001.” It goes on to say that “MirCorp is setting up an office in Moscow to coordinate and support its Citizen Explorers – becoming the first operation in the world to manage a corps of private space travelers.” For a while it seemed that MirCorp had proven its detractors wrong and generated real business deals.

Mir’s Fortunes Begin to Sag

Within a few weeks rumor’s of Mir’s demise began anew. MirCorp was having problems meeting its funding schedule – something they blamed in part on bookkeeping and the need to fly an additional Progress to Mir to raise its orbit due to unforeseen solar activity. Increased solar activity can cause the Earth’s atmosphere to swell thus increasing the drag on a satellite – much the same thing hastened Skylab’s demise in 1979.

In mid-October MirCorp announced that it planned an IPO (Initial public offering) in the coming months aimed at raising $117 million in financing enough, they hoped, to keep their company in business and to assure the Russian government that they had sufficient commercial interest to justify the continued use of Mir. This came across in the media as being somewhat of a spur of the moment action when one senior MirCorp official was caught unaware of the decision when asked to comment on it by reporters. Despite MirCorp’s announced intent to pursue an IPO no one leaped at the chance to invest.

MirCorp’s problems were further magnified by news reports that another media venture – one including NASA’s media partner DreamTime – had been in discussions with Energia about obtaining a third seat flight to the ISS. While NASA denied that it had been approached, privately they said that little could be done to stop DreamTime from making any such arrangements.

As these stories arose, news reports surfaced that film producer James Cameron was interested in flying to Mir and that he had spent some time in Russia undergoing examinations. Cameron’s company Lightstorm later denied this story.

By October it was becoming abundantly clear that Russia was losing patience with a commercial operation plan for Mir and that the customer base was not materializing as fast as MirCorp would have liked it to. Despite these rumors of its demise a Progress spacecraft was launched to Mir in mid October. A few days later it fired its engines and raised Mir’s orbit postponing its demise for several more months. That Progress spacecraft is still docked with Mir.

Less than a month later word came out of Russia that the government had formally decided to dump Mir into the South Pacific in February 2001. Another Progress spacecraft will be required in January 2001 to lower Mir’s orbit.
Despite protests from nationalist factions in Russia including a formal condemnation by the lower house of the Duma, this decision seems to be close to final.

Soyuz – Space Taxi

Soyuz spacecraft have been flown by Russia since the late 1960’s – developed initially as part of the Soviet lunar program. They were eventually modified for use as space ferries to and from a series of Soviet space stations. A cargo version of the Soyuz – “Progress” was developed to enhance the ability to resupply these space stations. Soyuz spacecraft have been modified and improved once again, this time for their use on the ISS as an interim Crew Return Vehicle (CRV). Battery life, avionics, and propulsion storage being the main modifications made.

During the Mir and Salyut programs, it was standard procedure for crews to be launched in a new Soyuz, leave behind one or two crew member in space, and then return in the older Soyuz which had reached the end of its certified useful life. Often times a passenger on the new Soyuz (usually a “guest cosmonaut”) would ride in the third seat and spend a week or so aboard Mir. An English woman and a Japanese journalist used this route to make their visits to Mir.

More or less the same procedure of Soyuz “ferry flights” will be followed on ISS (except that the entire Taxi crew will return to Earth) until such time as the U.S. provided CRV (developed from the current X-38 test vehicle) is delivered to the ISS in the middle of this decade. Given the current on-orbit Soyuz lifetime of around 190 days (and leaving some margin in for safety’s sake) this changeout will have to occur at least twice very calendar year. It is standard operating procedure to fly two fully certified Soyuz pilots on each mission. While the third seat’s occupant does need this level of proficiency – they do need to undergo considerable training before they can be certified to fly on a Soyuz.

It is the third seat that Energia has focused it commercial interest upon. During the Salyut and Mir programs other countries paid Russia (then the USSR) to send its professional astronauts to space for research purposes. Given the cost involved – and the scientific purpose of their mission – maximum time in space is always preferred. In some cases these visitors spent months in space.

That would not be the case for these ferry flights which would offer perhaps a week aboard the ISS. As such, the incentive to send someone up for no more than a week or so would result in little if any chance to perform meaningful science in space. That leaves those who would see a week in space as something intrinsically valuable even if they just looked out the window. High cost cruises on Earth are an applicable example given that their cost can often exceed an average annual income.

How did we get here?

To understand what all the arm waving is about, one has to look back at how the U.S., Russia, and other countries have agreed to run the ISS program.

When the memorandum of understanding was signed between the countries that compose the International Space Station the contributions of each nation were established. As was the case in the MOU’s that were used to form the previous Space Station Freedom program, financial exchanges between countries were discouraged with the exception of common operating costs. In addition to various modules (including the Service Module) Russia also provides Progress flights to resupply the ISS and Soyuz vehicles for crew transport and as interim CRVs.

As a participant in the ISS program Russia provides various goods and services at its own expense. Russia is free to provide these goods and services as its sees fit so long as the hardware or services meet overall program requirements. Russia can also re-sell any or all of its contributions to the ISS program. Indeed, it has already done so – the selling of a portion of its crew time allocation to the U.S.

Russia is also working on an arrangement with RSC Energia and SpaceHab wherein the Docking and Stowage Module Russia is supposed to contribute to the program would be replaced with a commercial module named “Enterprise” which would fill many of the original modules functions.

Having worked at NASA during the Space Station Freedom program and the beginning of the ISS program, I can attest to the fact that it was always assumed from the earliest days of Russia’s involvement with the redesigned space station program, that Russia would eventually seek out ways to pay for its contributions to the program through commercial arrangements.

While NASA Administrator Dan Goldin publicly complains about “rich people’ flying to the ISS, he knows that there is little he can do to stop this. All that is required is for the Russian Space Agency (RSA) to formally tell NASA that Dennis Tito is part of the crew on the 30 April 2001 mission. As mentioned earlier a letter concerning this matter was recently sent from RSA to NASA.

He won’t just float around up there

Tito remains confident that he will climb into a Soyuz and fly into space. He said that his current plan is to return to Russia just after the New Year to resume training – this time for a Soyuz flight to the ISS. While he is somewhat vague about the exact status of negotiations between RSA and NASA he will say that he is confident that RSA will provide the required notice to NASA that he is a member of the Soyuz crew and that NASA will accept that notification without complaint.

What will he do when he is up there? Tito admits that there is an inherent, and basic “fun” aspect of this trip – one that any person would be hard pressed not to enjoy. But just as there is much, much more to Dennis Tito than millionaire space vacationer, so there is much more to what he sees himself doing in space.

Tito views himself, to a great extent as “picking up where NASA’s Teacher and Reporter in space programs could have gone “noting that he wants to “give something back from this”. When you talk with Tito, he regularly moves to the topic of education and conveying his experience to as many people as he can – of all ages. While the specific details have yet to be worked out, Tito has talked of setting up an educational effort – perhaps in cooperation with am existing space or educational organization – designed to get people involved in his experience. Tito has already been involved with various charitable programs in Los Angeles – and has expressed interest in the establishment of programs following his flight that could be involved with efforts such as donation of computers and other equipment to educational organizations.

Tito also sees his flight as being a good way to demonstrate the potential – and desirability – for additional capital investment in space ventures – not just the type that will send him into space – but others that would seek to provide a variety of goods and services.

So … Will Tito Actually Get to Fly?

Russia has made it rather clear that it intends to pursue a variety of commercial ventures that involved the use of their portion of the ISS program for commercial purposes. NASA has also spoken of the commercial uses of the space station – indeed, NASA Administrator Dan Goldin has boasted that 30% of the capacity of the ISS (the U.S. portion that is) will be devoted to commercial activities. As such, you’d think that NASA would welcome another nation’s commercialization efforts with open arms.

Each nation’s commercial efforts include a significant government role. In Russia’s case, the government is explicitly involved in deciding the sort of commercial deals that are made and sharing in the profits derived from these activities. The U.S. is also deeply involved in the potential commercialization of its space station assets – but attempts to at least appear to do so with less of a heavy hand. None the less, NASA still exerts just as forceful a hand in the eventual commercial use of its assets as does Russia with its portion of the ISS.

Once Russia tells NASA that Tito is a member of the 30 April 2001 Soyuz flight to the ISS, there is not much NASA can do – unless NASA manages to find another customer who can pay for the third seat in the Soyuz – and Russia (and Energia) agrees. This is not likely to happen since Tito’s contract has a first right of refusal clause – a contract signed not only by MirCorp but also by RSC Energia head Yuri Semenov as well.

None the less, should there be another paying customer on the April Soyuz flight, all this would do is change the name of the commercial passenger – and the name on the check that pays for the flight . It will not change the fact that the passenger’s seat was bought. The only other possibility that could cause Tito to get bumped is if some pressing operational concern took precedence.

Tito has waited more than 40 years to fly in space. My money is on Tito.

Related Links

° MirCorp

° International Space Station

° Space Commercialization at NASA

° RSC Energia

° Destination Mir, NBC

° Russia Will Crash Mir into the Pacific Ocean in February 2001, SpaceRef

° Companies Present Their Plans for Multimedia Ventures in Space, SpaceRef

° Sending “Average” People into Space is Suddenly VERY Popular, SpaceRef

° The Prospect of a Commercial Mir: Are we going to have TWO space stations?, SpaceRef

° World’s First Space Tourist to Visit Mir, SpaceRef

° Mir Cosmonauts Make First Commercial Space Walk, SpaceRef

Background Information

° MirCorp Statement on the Mir Space Station’s Future, MirCorp

° MirCorp to Make Historic Initial Public Offering, MirCorp

° MirCorp announces on-time conclusion of Mir flight in June, MirCorp

° MirCorp Funds Launch of Third Progress Cargo Spaceship to Mir, MirCorp

° Official Energia Press Reelase about the launch of Progress M-43 logistics vehicle to the Mir Station, MirCorp

° MirCorp’s First Citizen Explorer Enters Training, MirCorp

° MirCorp and Italian Company in Discussions on “Citizen Explorer” Flight To the Mir Space Station, MirCorp

° April 24 – A busy weekend, and preparations for a new Progress resupply spacecraft , MirCorp

° MirCorp Update: A busy Friday/Saturday, followed by a well deserved day off, MirCorp

MirCorp Update: Mir’s pressurization stabilizes, leak search may be over
, MirCorp

° MirCorp Update: Activity in the core station and the Kvant, Kvant-2 and Kristall modules , MirCorp

° Historic Docking of Privately-Backed Mission to Mir Spurs MirCorp’s Commercial Business Plan for Station

° Privately-backed Manned Flight to Save Mir Space Station Is Set for Historic In-orbit Docking on April 6

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.