Private space exploration company has an opening for an astronaut

If you ever wanted to be an astronaut and you have buckets of money to spend on your dream here's your chance. Private space exploration firm Space Adventures today said for the first time the opportunity to train as a private space explorer alongside one of its orbital spaceflight candidates, and among professional astronauts, is now open to the public.

The astronaut will be trained as a back-up to fly with famed game developer and son of former NASA astronaut, Richard Garriott, currently planning a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in October 2008. Computer game developer Garriott is paying at least $30 million to launch toward the space station aboard a Russian Soyuz spaceship according to Space Adventures, which brokered the flight with Russia's Federal Space Agency.

Garriott's spaceflight is the first in a series of missions that will accommodate commercial activity aboard the ISS, Space Adventures said. Involvement from the private sector will range from scientific and environmental research to educational outreach programming.Space Adventures is the only company that has actually put private citizens in space. It works with NASA the Russian Space Agency and the International Space Station countries to broker flights. It was behind Charles Simonyi, the ex- Microsoft exec's flight into space. A trip that reportedly cost him $25 million.

"I encourage anyone who has ever dreamed of traveling to space to contact to Space Adventures," said Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures. "Not only will the back-up crew member be certified as a ‘fully-trained cosmonaut' and be named to an official space mission crew, a distinction that less than 1,000 people have ever had; but, our combined participation is a step forward in the progression of our expansion into the cosmos."

The price of the program is $3,000,000 which includes the required spaceflight training costs, along with accommodations in Star City and other training locations. For more detailed information, look here.

NASA too is looking for astronauts. It said in October it was accepting applications for the 2009 Astronaut Candidate Class. Those selected could fly to space for long-duration stays on the International Space Station and missions to the moon and who knows maybe Mars. To be considered, a bachelor's degree in engineering, science or math and three years of relevant professional experience are required. Typically, successful applicants have significant qualifications in engineering or science, or extensive experience flying high-performance jet aircraft - a requirement that might slim the field some.

The astronaut news comes as another private company - Virgin Galactica - is booking seats foe space flights that might occur as soon as 2009. Tickets cost $200,000 and deposits start from $20,000, the company's Web site states. Virgin Galactic is owned by Richard Branson's Virgin Group. Virgin will own and operate privately built spaceships, based on the SpaceShipOne. SpaceShipOne was the first private manned spacecraft to exceed an altitude of 328,000 feet twice within the span of a 14 day period, thus claiming the ten million dollar Ansari X-Prize in 2004. These spaceships, which are currently under construction, will allow affordable private sub-orbital space travel for the first time in history and give you the opportunity of being amongst the very first private astronauts.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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