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Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK
Space tourist's 'fascinating' holiday
Shuttleworth, BBC
The world in his hands: The Afronaut talks to the BBC
The space tourist Mark Shuttleworth is thoroughly enjoying his trip to the International Space Station - but thinks he may need a holiday to recover from all the excitement when he returns to Earth next week.

The 28-year-old South African was speaking to the BBC from the orbiting platform via a video link.

Africa has a great future - but to reach that future, we have to get every African inspired and dreaming

Mark Shuttleworth
He answered questions from BBC News Online readers and revealed he had some difficulty swallowing in the weightless environment.

The mutli-millionaire also confronted head-on the criticism that his money could have been better spent helping those less fortunate back on Earth.

"It's very important for Africa to embrace its future and to create a sense of excitement," he said. "One of the things I hoped to do by fulfilling my own dream was to reach out to children and learners in Africa and show them that dreams can come true.

"Africa has a great future - but to reach that future, we have to get every African inspired and dreaming."

Shrimp cocktail

Mr Shuttleworth, who is reported to have paid the Russian space agency 14m ($20m) for his trip into space, said he was excited about doing science in orbit.

The "Afronaut" is conducting stem cell and embryology experiments designed by South African researchers. He is also working on Aids, using the weightless environment to grow near-perfect crystals of HIV proteins.

"We hope to get some good quality crystals which will help scientists understand those proteins better and perhaps help develop new drugs," he said.

Mr Shuttleworth, who made his money from the sale of his internet company, said the "geek" in him was fascinated by the mix of low and hi-technology kit installed on the space station.

He also said he was enjoying space food - everything from steak to shrimp cocktail.

The South African, who actually lives in London, UK, is the world's second holidaymaker in space. He follows in the footsteps of Dennis Tito, a US businessman and former American space agency (Nasa) employee, who rode into orbit last year.

Back home

Mr Shuttleworth went to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz TM-34 craft. He was accompanied by Russian Commander Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Roberto Vittori of the European Space Agency.

They docked with the Zarya module of the ISS at 0756 GMT on Saturday as the two vehicles flew over Central Asia.

The Soyuz TM-34 craft will be left at the ISS to act as an "emergency lifeboat" should there ever be a catastrophic failure on the orbiting platform.

Gidzenko, Vittori and Shuttleworth will return to Earth in the Soyuz TM-33 craft brought up by another crew last year.

The three spacemen will ride home to a landing on the Kazakh steppes on 5 May (Kazakh time).

Space tourist Mark Shuttleworth
"I am very proud to carry the flag of an African country to space for the first time"
See also:

12 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
Nasa makes space tourism U-turn
01 Feb 02 | Sci/Tech
Nasa outlines space tourist criteria
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