Who will be the next orbital space tourist?

Who will be the next commercial passenger to take a ride to the ISS on a Soyuz spacecraft in late 2008? Most of the recent speculation has focused on a Russian, after the head of the Russian space agency Roskosmos, Anatoly Perminov, said last week that a “prominent Russian businessman-turned-politician” (as described in an article in The Moscow Times on Monday) was “next in line” to be a space tourist. That mysterious person has since been identified as Vladimir Gruzdev, a “tycoon-explorer” who is the co-owner of the Russian grocery market chain Seventh Continent. Gruzdev also participated in the recent Russian Arctic expedition, where, in a controversial move, a submersible planted a Russian flag on the seabed at the North Pole. (There’s some images about that expedition on Gruzdev’s Russian-language web site.)

While Gruzdev may be the first Russian space tourist (he certainly has both the adventurous streak and the money to pay for the trip), is he going to be the next paying passenger to the ISS? Maybe not. An article in Thursday’s edition of The Korea Times discusses a Zero-G aircraft flight that the CEO of computing gaming company NCSoft, Kim Taek-jin, took this week in the US. Kim himself doesn’t appear to be a candidate for a Soyuz trip, but the CEO of the company’s North American division, Richard Garriott, may be in line for a trip. A source tells the Korea Times: “Garriott is rumored to be on board for a 2008 shot to the space station. It is to be announced in early October along with his new game, ‘Tabula Rasa.’ He can then play his new game from outer space.” Garriott doesn’t have the funds to pay for the trip himself, so presumably the company would be bankrolling the trip. Garriott also has an insider connection: he is on the board of directors for Space Adventures. In a 2005 interview with Sam Dinkin for The Space Review, he explained how he helped open the door for orbital space tourism around 2000, even if a financial reversal prevented him from going himself.

Space Adventures has, as usual, remained tight-lipped about their potential upcoming orbital clients. In a speech last week at the AGI Users Exchange conference in Washington, Space Adventures president and CEO Eric Anderson (himself a former AGI employee) did say that they hoped to have a space tourist perform a spacewalk during a trip to the ISS, perhaps in 2009.

3 comments to Who will be the next orbital space tourist?

  • Hi Jeff,

    I am the editor-in-chief of Focus China, a popular science monthly magazine co-published by Bertelsmann G+J, the European largest magazine publishing company in China with Tianjin Life&Science publishing house.

    “Civilian Space Era” is a feature article we are developing and to have an international writer who is know this topics from A to Z would definitely a gurantee to the quality of this report.

    Did you know any one in your circle could be the contributor of this topics?

    Best regards,


  • […] selection was not surprising given some of the rumors going around in recent weeks. As noted here earlier this month, the South Korean press had reported that Garriott might be the next space tourist. Garriott is the […]

  • […] that Garriott may be replaced by Vladimir Gruzdev, a wealthy politician and adventurer. Gruzdev had been reported last month as a likely candidate to be the first Russian space tourist and certainly has the means to pay for the trip himself, although his political party, United […]

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