Ansari, Space Adventures, and that extra $20 million

On Friday the Russian news service RIA Novosti reported that Anousheh Ansari had officially been signed up as the backup to Daisuke “Dice-K” Enomoto for this fall’s Soyuz ISS flight. The news wasn’t that surprising, since she had previously been reported to be in training in Russia to serve that role, possibly as a prelude to flying herself.

So could she account for that “extra” $20 million not otherwise accounted for in the company’s press release last week marking the fifth anniversary of Dennis Tito’s flight to the ISS? It turns out that, by coincidence, there was a plenary session about Space Adventures Friday morning at the ISDC, with company president Eric Anderson and recent ISS tourist Greg Olsen among those speaking. Before the session I talked with another company official, who declined to offer any confirmation about Ansari’s status and whether she represented that extra $20 million. In a brief conversation after his speech, Anderson didn’t offer any confirmations, either, although he did note that, hypothetically, “I wouldn’t go through that training if I wasn’t going to fly myself.” When asked about the extra $20 million, he first seemed to indicate that it was actually deposits for suborbital flights, but then later said, “so that makes it $140 million.” The press release itself states that the $120 million the company has received in revenues has been for orbital spaceflights. (See Alan Boyle’s Cosmic Log entry on the same and related subjects.)

During his speech, Anderson didn’t mention Ansari by name as a potential or future customer, but did say that besides Enomoto and Charles Simonyi, there are “a few others that we haven’t announced yet. There are a lot of people who are in the queue and who will be experiencing the space experience of a lifetime in the next few years.”

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