Anousheh begins space ‘holiday’

Soyuz lifts offStar Trek fan Anousheh Ansari blasted off into a clear blue sky today for her trip to the international space station.

She became the world’s first female space tourist when she rocketed into orbit in a Russian Soyuz TMA-9 rocket.

But just like so many package-holidaymakers back home, she was finding the flight to her “resort” a little cramped.

She faces two days stuck in a claustrophobic tin can capsule with two male astronauts. One of them cried “Let’s go” as the rocket lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

One of Anousheh’s companions, Nasa’s Mike Lopez-Alegria, has long legs which helps make it a tight squeeze. Anousheh, 40, who is only the fourth private space explorer, hopes Mike and cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin will give her a little privacy when she needs it. The Soyuz has a tiny “living room” so she will be able to keep to herself when she needs to use the craft’s rather primitive electric toilet.

Iranian-born Anousheh, chairman of hi-tech multimedia company Prodea Systems, of Texas, told reporters before take-off: “It is really small, it is a cramped space for three people. Of course, I don’t have any expectation of privacy, but both Michael and Misha are very, very considerate individuals.”

Anousheh, who is thought to have paid around $20million for her ten-day trip, will arrive at the space station at 6.24am UK time on Wednesday. Her companions are beginning a six-month tour of duty crewing the orbiting outpost, 220 miles above Earth.

Anousheh will carry out experiments on microbes and help scientists study lower back pain in astronauts whiile she is in orbit. She will also write the first blog from space as she keeps an online diary for her tour company Space Adventures.

The space station’s current occupants, commander Pavel Vinogradov, Jeff Williams and Thomas Reiter, watched today’s blast-off on a video link. They had just said goodbye on Sunday to the crew of Atlantis who carried out vital construction work on the station.

Tonight they are due to undock an unmanned Progress cargo ship to make room for Anousheh’s Soyuz to arrive. Atlantis is due to land at Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, on Wednesday. Photo: Energia.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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