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Mon, Dec 22, 2003 - Page 12 News List

Space tourism firm offers honeymoon for US$40 million

AFP , MOSCOW

Despite banning marriages in space, Russia is offering newlyweds the chance to swap Venice or the Niagara Falls for a cosmic honeymoon romance by buying a US$40 million ticket to space, officials said yesterday.

Russia's Rosaviakosmos space agency is proposing together with US firm Space Adventures for couples to fly together to the International Space Station (ISS) on a Russian Soyuz space craft, said Rosaviakosmos spokesman Sergei Gorbunov.

"Under our contract with Space Adventures we have an option for sending two space tourists at once on a Soyuz. So theoretically, young married couples could make use of this possibility," he told the ITAR-TASS news agency.

The asking price for a 10-day visit to the ISS is around US$20 million (16 million euros), a sum only two space tourists -- Californian businessman Dennis Tito and South Africa Internet millionaire Mark Shuttleworth -- have so far been willing to pay.

Both tourists jaunts were organized by Space Adventures. The price for a couple would be twice that amount.

Candidates, who would travel on board one spaceship accompanied by a professional astronaut, would have to show they are in a good health and undergo eight to 10 months of training, the official said.

In addition, "they will have to prove they don't have bad habits, money from illegal sources and don't belong to any terrorist organization," Gorbunov added.

The Russian space official did not specify whether sex would be permitted for the space-bound honeymooners.

Astronauts are banned from having sex in space because of the possible risks to the embryo if a female cosmonaut became pregnant.

Space Adventues, the Arlington, Virgina-based firm, which brokered the first two tourist space flights in 2001 and last year, has signed a contract with Rosaviakosmos to fly two more tourists to the ISS in the next two years.

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