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Space tourist earns his keep

Dennis Tito holds a news conference Friday accompanied by Russian cosmonauts Yuri Baturin, left, and Talgat Musabayev  

Tito performing 'menial tasks' while on dream vacation

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION ALPHA (CNN) -- California businessman Dennis Tito is having a vacation for the ages just 250 miles from home.

What makes Tito's trip a little different, of course, is that those 250 miles aren't north or south or east or west: They're up.

The space tourist said Friday he would gladly stay on the international space station Alpha for months if he could, adding that his presence was not affecting the work of the astronauts and cosmonauts aboard.

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"I actually have spent some of my time doing some crew tasks that would take the crew time out of their day," he said via a video hookup with Mission Control in Moscow. "I've been shelling out food and doing rather menial tasks to assist the crew and give them more time for their other work."

When he's not working, he's listening to opera and snapping photographs.

"I spent a tremendous amount of time photographing the Earth from different windows," he said. "I have had time to gaze at the Earth.

"I am enjoying this so much," he said. "If I were allowed, I would spend several months up here in space."

High price tag

Tito reportedly paid up to $20 million to the Russian space program for his week in space, riding up with a pair of cosmonauts delivering a new Soyuz spacecraft. Tito and cosmonauts Talgat Musabayev and Yuri Baturin are scheduled to leave Saturday, bringing the old Soyuz craft attached to the station back to Earth for retirement.

The American space program NASA did not look kindly on Tito's visit, eliciting a promise that he would pay for anything he broke and requiring supervision if he came into the American sector of the station before signing off on the plan to bring him aboard.

Tito said the restrictions have not been a problem.

"The American segment is at least 100 meters away from where we're sitting right now -- where I spend most of my time -- and there is absolutely no way that my presence can interfere with their work," he said.

He has visited the Americans, who have been "very kind in welcoming me to the station," he said.

NASA's worries, he said, were unfounded. He said he thought that a trip such as his would benefit all the station's partners, including NASA, by publicizing "the station to the world."

In the meantime, he said, he's having the time of his life, sleeping "like a baby" in zero gravity.

"Before I flew to space, I had no idea how comfortable it would be," the space tourist said. "I think if a lot of people know what I know now there would be a huge demand."

Many long for Tito's excellent adventure
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Space tourist visits U.S. turf on orbiting outpost
May 2, 2001


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