Eric Anderson of Space Adventures held a short teleconference Friday afternoon (Friday morning here in Arizona) to discuss a new development in his company’s efforts to fly paying customers to the ISS. Highlights:
- The new development was that there is a possibility that a seat may become open on the Soyuz TMA-16 mission, scheduled for launch at the end of September of this year. That seat was supposed to be occupied by a Kazakh cosmonaut, but according to Anderson the Russian space agency Roskosmos has indicated to him that the seat might become available to either Space Adventures or a professional Russian cosmonaut.
- Who might fly on that mission, if the seat becomes available, isn’t clear. Both Esther Dyson and Nik Halik, the backups for Charles Simonyi and Richard Garriott, respectively, would be available, but it could also be a different customer.
- Anderson was also uncertain about exactly when a decision on the seat would be made. Since it traditionally takes close to six months to train for a flight, a new person would have to start training soon, even if a final decision hadn’t been made. (Dyson and Halik would, presumably, need far less training time.)
- Anderson said that he thinks that, from time to time, flight opportunities might become available on taxi flights to the ISS in the coming years even as the station’s crew expands to six people.
- Space Adventures is continuing to pursue plans for a dedicated flight to the ISS, now scheduled for as early as 2012 (previously the notional date was 2011). The company has been in discussions with potential customers besides Google’s Sergey Brin, Anderson said, and that while the company has been affected by the economic crisis (without specifying how), potential customers are taking the long-term view towards an eventual spaceflight.
- Anderson said that pricing is continuing to rise (Simonyi’s current flight cost $35M, according to multiple reports) because of both demand and inflation, but he hopes that it will level off at some point.