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Monday, 3 February, 2003, 20:36 GMT
Russia suspends 'space tourism'
Space shuttle pictures at Russian mission control
US and Russia veterans gathered for the ceremony
The Russian space agency says it will suspend its programme of sending crews and paying tourists on short visits to the International Space Station in the wake of the shuttle disaster.

I saw what I thought were beautiful meteorites flowing across the sky, but then I realised that what I saw was some of our dreams falling

Nasa Commander Michael Foale
A spokesman said a date for the resumption of the immensely lucrative space-tourism programme would depend on when the United States re-started its own shuttle programme.

The announcement came as US and Russian space officials and veterans mourned the loss of the Columbia's crew in a ceremony at the Korolyov mission control centre.

US ambassador Alexander Vershbow told the mourners that the two countries should continue co-operation on the International Space Station.

And Nasa Commander Michael Foale, who is in Russia for training, spoke of his deep shock at the loss.

"When I came home on Saturday afternoon I was expecting to see the landing of Columbia," said Foale, who has been preparing to lead a long-stay crew to the ISS later this year.

"What I saw was quite... exciting, because I saw what I thought were beautiful meteorites flowing across the sky.

"But then I realised... that what I saw was actually some of our dreams falling."

Previous tourists

Russian Space Agency spokesman Sergey Gorbunov said all commercial space launches had been postponed indefinitely, including the tourism project.

American space tourist Dennis Tito
Dennis Tito was the first tourist
He said the US might ground its shuttles for a year or two.

Two businessmen from the United States and South Africa have already been on paid space flights to the ISS.

In May 2001, 60-year-old Californian financier and former space scientist Dennis Tito made history by paying $20m for his eight-day trip to the ISS.

And just less than a year later, he was followed by internet multi-millionaire Mark Shuttleworth.

But Yuri Semyonov, who heads the state-run Energiya company, which builds the Russian spacecraft, said that plans to send up a third tourist in April this year had been dropped.

Missions in doubt

Russia launched an un-manned space rocket, the Progress M47, as scheduled on Sunday, to carry food, fuel and oxygen to three astronauts on the international space station.

Michael Foale
Foale's own mission to the ISS is in doubt
Space officials say they can keep the station manned by using Russian spacecraft instead of shuttles, as long as other members of the 18-nation project are prepared to pay.

But mission control spokesman Valery Lyndin said the shuttle disaster raised the possibility that further supply missions would be in doubt and the space station crew may have to leave the station.

He described this as a huge risk for the space station, which requires constant attention and a permanent crew.


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03 Feb 03 | Europe
02 Feb 03 | Europe
03 Feb 03 | Science/Nature
05 May 02 | Science/Nature
06 May 01 | Science/Nature
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