Space tourist visits U.S. turf on orbiting outpost
(CNN) -- The first paying tourist in space floated through U.S. territory on the international space station this week, despite misgivings from NASA that he should never have left the ground.
And the chief of NASA told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday he expects Russia to reimburse the United States for costs associated with the visit.
Dennis Tito, a California tycoon and former NASA rocket scientist, is paying Russia $20 million to tag along with two cosmonauts delivering an Soyuz escape capsule to the orbiting outpost.
Days before the flight, NASA gave up its objections after Tito agreed to a number of restrictions, including that he keep out of U.S. parts of station unless escorted by one of the residents.
"(Tito) has been in the U.S. segment," said Bob Cabana, NASA manager of international operations for the station, on Wednesday. "Everything has been executed according to agreements prior to flight. I think everything is going fine in that regard," he told reporters.
Shooting home planet videos
Tito, who made hundreds of millions in stock investments, agreed to pay for anything he breaks and not to sue if he suffers an injury while onboard the multi-billion dollar station.
NASA cameras have purposely kept Tito out of view since he arrived Monday morning. The 60-year-old space tourist, however, has spent much of his time snapping pictures and shooting video of his home planet through a portal on the space station, known as Alpha.
After his first euphoric day in the station, Tito has become somewhat reflective, noticing the thinness of the atmosphere and the blueness of Earth, his son told CNN.
"My father is pursuing his dream. He's obviously having the experience of his life," said Michael Tito, who spoke with his orbiting parent via ham radio.
Relying on troubled computers
The amateur astronaut might have more to do if he were handy with computers. The main computers controlling the station have been plagued with hard drive problems for more than a week, forcing the Alpha crew to slow down their busy schedule while ground controllers try to fix the glitches.
The space shuttle Endeavour, which last week delivered a $1 billion robotic arm to Alpha, returned with one of the main computers, which engineers are feverishly analyzing.
Mission controllers speculate that the cause of the computer woes could be faulty hard drives, software bugs or even solar flares, which spray bursts of intense radiation through the solar system.
John Curry, NASA flight director for the space station, doubted the sun was the culprit, since other computers on the station were working normally.
NASA wants Russia to pay
The station is currently limping along with one fully and one partly functioning command-and-control computers. NASA mission managers said a spare could go online soon before the station crew tests the new Canada-built robotic arm, which will be used to help construct the station.
The Alpha residents, cosmonaut Yury Usachev and astronauts Jim Voss and Susan Helms, should crank up their workload once Tito and his two Russian crewmates return to Earth this weekend in an old Soyuz spacecraft, NASA controllers said.
Russia, which agreed to deliver a fresh escape capsule every six months to Alpha, expects to sell more empty third seats on the Soyuz ships on future taxi flights.
NASA, which opposed the space tourist trip for safety reasons, could ask Russia to pay for Tito-related expenses. The chief of NASA told a U.S. House of Representatives science committee Wednesday that he expects Russia to reimburse the United States for costs associated with the visit.
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