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John Glenn: Space tourist cheapening Alpha

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John Glenn  

(CNN) -- Legendary astronaut John Glenn took aim at the first paying space tourist on Thursday while marking the fifth annual Space Day celebration.

"The time will come when we permit more people in space. I don't think that time is here yet," said Glenn, the first American in orbit.

Glenn, the recipient of criticism himself for returning to space decades after retiring from NASA, said Russia should not have allowed Dennis Tito to fly to the international space station this week.

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It was as if the United States had paid for most of an expensive laboratory on the ground and another partner "placed a Greyhound station or hot dog stand on one end," Glenn told CNN.

NASA, the main builder of the multi-billion dollar station, opposed the flight of Tito, a California financier who is paying $20 million to hang out on the orbiting outpost.

Tito rode up with a pair of Russian cosmonauts who delivered a fresh Soyuz escape capsule to the space station. He's spending his time on Alpha listening to opera tapes and staring through a portal at his home planet.

The three should return to Earth on Sunday in an old Soyuz docked to the station.

Glenn, who circled the Earth in 1962, months after a Russian cosmonaut performed the feat, spoke with CNN from the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

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Dennis Tito arrives on Alpha on Monday, April 30  

The retired U.S. senator was greeting schoolchildren participating in Space Day, an international event meant to promote the study of math and science.

"The main thing is to encourage kids in math and science," said Glenn, co-chair of the event. "Our kids are behind compared to kids in other parts of the world."

Millions of youths from 21 countries were expected to participate, many in a live Web cast with Glenn and other space notables, including three-time space shuttle commander Tom Jones, Mir visitor Wendy Lawrence and "Man on the Moon" author Andrew Chaikin.

Those wishing to chat with the stars of space should check out of the official Space Day Web site, http://www.spaceday.com. The two-hour Internet broadcast begins at noon EDT.



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RELATED SITES:
NASA
International Space Station

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