Monday, June 16, 2008

Space Adventures Jumping the Gun?

So a funny thing happened the other day.

I usually watch all of the shuttle launches; it has kind of become a tradition. I haven't missed one since Return to Flight after the Columbia disaster. I also watch the shuttle landings, though less consistently than the launches. Then sometimes I leave the TV on while doing chores or whatnot while NASA TV shows replays and post-event press conferences.

During Saturday's post-landing press conference, one of the reporters asked a question about the recent Space Adventures announcement concerning their planned use of the Soyuz capsules for tourist flights. I was in the garage at the time hunting for a pair of pliers, so I missed the answer. Now I wish I hadn't.

It turns out that NASA wasn't consulted about the new plans. However, the agency doesn't seem too concerned about that either, despite the fact that they're planning on also using the Soyuz capsules to deliver astronauts and supplies to the space station between the retirement of the space shuttle in 2010 and the completion of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle in 2015. NASA's administrator, Mike Griffin, put it this way: "It is their system. They can fly it as they wish."

However, questions about Space Advenures' plans don't end there. Anatoly Perminov, the head of Roskosmos, the Russian Space Agency, released a statement on the agency's website claiming he was unaware of any such deal. However, in Space Adventures' official announcement, the quote provided by Alexey Krasnov from Roskosmos was less than vague: "We are very pleased to continue working with Space Adventures into the foreseeable future. This method for growing our commercial partnership with Space Adventures is beneficial for all parties. The Soyuz to be used for this mission shall be a specially manufactured craft, separate from the other Soyuz vehicles designated for the transportation of the ISS crews"

So will this relly go forward? Well, either this is just a series of silly miscommunications, or Space Adventures really has jumped the gun a bit. We'll see.

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35

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