Kazakhstan gets a cut rate deal from Russia

It’s who you know: Russia has sold Kazakhstan Sarah Brightman’s space tourist seat at a price more than a third less than it charges NASA.

Kazakhstan will pay a mere $20 million to send an astronaut to the International Space Station on a Russian rocket — less than half the sum reportedly asked of a British passenger to make the same trip and less than one-third of the price routinely paid by NASA for U.S. astronauts, news agency RIA Novosti reported Wednesday, citing a Kazakh space agency official.

Tourists pay somewhere around $35 million while NASA pays $75 million. Kazakhstan, however, owns Russia’s spaceport Baikonur, so they have some leverage in the negotiations. Moreover, there are hints that it won’t have to lay out any cash at all, and that the fee will simply be deducted from the $115 million annual rent that Russia pays.

Sarah Brightman pulls out of her flight to ISS later this year

Citing family issues, Sarah Brightman has suddenly canceled her plans to fly to ISS later this year as a space tourist.

All the press announcements of this decision emphasize that she was doing quite well in the training program, but one wonders. There had been rumors of being replaced in recent weeks, and the “family issues” cited in today’s announcement could be a cover for anything.

Either way, this is unfortunate, because her flight would have been quite entertaining and would have done a great deal to promote the space tourism industry.

An update on Sarah Brightman’s astronaut training

The competition heats up: New detailed photos of Sarah Brightman’s training for her September tourist trip to ISS have been released.

The photos appear to dispel the rumors that Brightman might be replaced with her backup tourist for the flight to ISS.

Some might consider this flight nothing more than a publicity stunt. While it surely is that, for Brightman it also is a dream come true. And the publicity will not simply be good for her career, it will do wonders to sell the idea of space tourism and space exploration.

In fact, there is never really any downside to freedom and allowing people to follow their dreams, and this tourist flight to ISS will prove it.

A new song for space

At a press conference Sarah Brightman yesterday revealed that she is working with Andrew Lloyd Webber to create a new song to sing when she visits the International Space Station later this year.

She also said that she will sing it from the station near the end of her visit. While the reason she gave for this schedule was because she needed time to adjust to weightlessness, I also see this as good marketing, allowing time for a pr build-up to get the largest audience possible.

Sarah Brightman’s first day of astronaut training

The competition heats up: A press conference in Russia highlighted the first day of astronaut training for space tourist Sarah Brightman.

A ten minute video excerpt of the conference is below the fold. The most interesting part of the video, however, has nothing to do with Brightman. Instead, it was what was said by her back-up space tourist, Satoshi Takamatus. Since the age of six he had wanted to be an astronaut. At 22 however Japan’s space agency rejected him because he wore glasses or contacts. He then became an advertising executive who in 2001 arranged to shoot a commercial on ISS using Russian astronauts. While in Russia, he apparently met the right people and, using those contacts, has now come back at 53 as a paying customer. If Brightman has any issues that prevent her from flying, he will step up and replace her. If not, he is tentatively scheduled to fly himself in ’17 or ’18.
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Sarah Brightman, astronaut

The competition heats up: The start of Sarah Brightman’s astronaut training has been delayed from this fall to the beginning of 2015.

I suspect this delay has more to do with accommodating her schedule and the fact that she is very enthusiastic and well-prepared than any negative issues related to her or the mission. They have probably decided that she just needs less time to train.

Her actual flight to ISS is scheduled for the fall of 2015.

Sarah Brightman’s visit to ISS in doubt.

Sarah Brightman’s visit to ISS in doubt.

Soyuz taxi flights normally visit the International Space Station for a period of about eight days. NASA and Roscosmos are considering extending a 2015 visit to one month, however. If that happens, Brightman would have to give up her seat to a scientific researcher, who would perform some short-term experiments aboard the space station.

Roscosmos manned space flight director Alexei Krasnov had previously indicated that Russia might consider carrying two paying customers on the 2015 taxi flight. So, it would be theoretically possible for Russia to fly Brightman and the researcher. It’s unknown whether Brightman would want to spend that long aboard the space station, however, and pricing policy to longer-duration stays have not been worked out.

Sources in Russia indicated that the contract for Sarah Brightman’s space tourist flight has not yet been signed.

Sources in Russia indicated today that the contract for Sarah Brightman’s space tourist flight has not yet been signed.

Brightman will have turned 55 by that time, which means she will become one of the 20 oldest cosmonauts of the world, among which there is now only one woman (Barbara Morgan, which made a shuttle flight in 2007). “It is not known how the next three years, which the singer will spend in permanent travel around the world, will affect her health,” the source said. It is most likely that only Russian cosmonauts will take part in the 2015 ISS mission, who will take all three spaces in the Soyuz, he said.

The story focuses on the publicity gained for Brightman by making her announcement, but the actual scoop, assuming the source is correct, is that she doesn’t have a contract.

In order to get a seat on a Soyuz capsule Sarah Brightman outbid NASA, bumping its astronaut out and thus forcing the U.S. agency to finally agree to a year long mission.

Irony of ironies: In order to buy her seat on a Soyuz capsule Sarah Brightman outbid NASA, bumping its astronaut out.

This was a win-win for the Russians. They get paid more by Brightman than by NASA (over $51 million), and they finally get that year long mission they’ve been campaigning for for years. Because Brightman has taken one of NASA’s seats, the U.S. agency was forced to agree to the extended mission in order to maintain a presence on the station throughout that time period. Otherwise, their astronaut would come home and be replaced by Brightman, but for only ten days.