Space tourist trains for chance landing in Arctic
NEW YORK -- Mark Shuttleworth is slated to become the second paying tourist in space on April 25. The South African dotcom millionaire spent some $20 million for the flight on a Russian spacecraft and is currently training near Moscow.
Shuttleworth, 28, joined American Morning with Paula Zahn via satellite Tuesday to talk about his upcoming 10-day trip, which will take him to the international space station.
ZAHN: I recognize the best is yet to come. But has it been worth your investment so far?
SHUTTLEWORTH: It's been an extraordinary experience, Paula, living here for some seven or eight months, having to learn Russian, experiencing the full training program, and working program of the cosmonauts and astronauts here.
And working with the Russian scientists, getting them together with African scientists, and getting the first small steps of a space program off the ground. It's a wonderful time.
ZAHN: You just referenced your training. And I know you had to go through some extensive and exhausting training. What has been the most challenging part of the process for you?
SHUTTLEWORTH: Physically, some of the most challenging stuff was the survival training, the Soyuz, which is a very small compact rocket capsule designed to land in the desert. And generally, they have been pretty accurate about landing on the Kazakh Steppes.
But it contains survival equipment and procedures in case we should land in the ocean or in an Arctic climate in Siberia or in Canada, and we have to train for all of those eventualities. Some of the toughest training was training for a Soyuz landing in the ocean and survival in the forest in an Arctic environment.
We also had a lot of very Russian training designed to toughen up the body for some of the stresses of space, designed to induce motion sickness and get people comfortable with working effectively under stressful conditions while they're very sick. So those were tough physically.
ZAHN: Are you ready?
SHUTTLEWORTH: I think I'm as ready as I'll ever be. We're all surprisingly calm this close to the day. We've worked very, very hard for a long time. Final certification was last week. And there were tremendous celebrations after that. And now we're in a sort of calming down and preparation phase, getting psychologically prepared.
ZAHN: When Dennis Tito, who is considered the first tourist in space, attempted to do this, he didn't have much luck with access to the American part of the space station. What kind of cooperation do you expect from NASA?
SHUTTLEWORTH: One of the big things that I hope to achieve in this project was to show that public and private interests could work together for mutual benefit. And so my team worked very, very hard to build constructive relationships with the European Space Agency, as well as NASA. And I must say my experience has been constructive.
Obviously, it's a large organization, NASA in particular has a very large organization. People work there for the passion and joy of what they do. They have diverse views, and they hold those views very strongly.
But we were able to conclude a formal relationship. I trained in Houston, which was a very interesting contrast with training here in Star City. And we concluded a contract, I think for the first time, which will formalize the relationship and give me the ability to use some of the remarkable technology NASA has up there for educational and science purposes. I was very pleased with that.
ZAHN: We look forward to following your mission, Mark Shuttleworth. I secretly wish that I would be one of those who attempt it someday. Our thoughts will be with you and continued good luck with the training.