An article in Saturday’s edition of Florida Today reports that NASA “was among the last to know” about Space Adventures’ plans for a dedicated Soyuz flight to the ISS in late 2011. Of course, NASA didn’t need to be consulted prior to the announcement, so that’s not too surprising, although NASA and the other international partners in the ISS will need to approve the overall mission plan, just as they do any major developments in the assembly and operation of the mission.
A more serious issue, though, is whether the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, is on board. The Space Adventures press release about the mission includes a quote from a Roskosmos official, Alexey B. Krasnov, who says that the agency is “very pleased to continue working with Space Adventures into the foreseeable future.” However, in a statement published Thursday on the Roskosmos web site (in Russian), the head of the space agency, Anatoly Perminov, said he was unaware of any plans for sending additional tourists to the station, citing in particular Google co-founder Sergey Brin. “I have no information about such plans,” he said, according to a machine translation of the release. He added that as the station’s crew complement is expanded from three to six people, starting next year, “space tourism will be temporarily suspended”. The Roskosmos statement, though, doesn’t specifically mention the dedicated mission, or the possibility that the “temporarily suspended” period might stretch only from early 2009 (the last available seat on a regular Soyuz taxi flight) until the planned dedicated mission in late 2011.
There’s more discussion about these conflicting statements at RussianSpaceWeb.com, while Flight’s Rob Coppinger expresses his own general skepticism about the announcement. I contacted Space Adventures on Friday to get some clarification on the nature of their agreement with Roskosmos, any why Perminov might think there’s no such deal, but have not received a response from the company.