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CNN Today

Mir Corp. Announces Deal to Rent Mir Space Station for Tourism

Aired February 17, 2000 - 2:48 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The Mir space station may have a second life as a movie set. The deal isn't set in stone, but Russian and British filmmakers hope to begin shooting on board Mir by next month.

As CNN's Tom Mintier reports, there are other plans in the works to keep the Mir in orbit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It may be the most expensive vacation resort -- well, not on Earth, but orbiting more than 100 miles above it.

The Russian Mir space station is set to become the destination for well-heeled tourists with deep pockets. A private company called Mir Corp. announced a deal in London to rent the former Soviet space station for an initial investment of $20 million U.S. dollars.

YURI SEMENOV, PRES. RSC ENERGIA (through translator): Yes, we are going to let tourists visit, but those tourists who will be mentally healthy, physically healthy, psychologically healthy, who will not be able to -- will not be too emotional, press the wrong button.

MINTIER: One of the men behind the money is Washington millionaire Walt Anderson. He says the space investment is a sound one.

WALT ANDERSON, INVESTOR: This will be the first time that a truly commercial entity operated under a Western business model controls access to space. We're not some fantasy company. We have a space station and we have a proven man-rated launch system and a proven cargo launch system that has a better safety and performance record than any other system on the planet.

MINTIER: Mir was abandoned by its crew last August and was set to plunge into the Pacific Ocean later this year. The 14-year-old space station was built with a planned life span of five years. It is rusted and contaminated with chemicals, but is still one of a kind.

A trip to the Mir for fun will set you back anywhere from 12 to $20 million per person. A renovated Mir will accommodate five people at a time. That would be $100 million. There is already a waiting list.

But the biggest draw to space is commercial -- products like drugs that require a zero-gravity environment for production. The competition is the American space agency NASA. Commercial customers expecting on-time delivery of services have been disappointed in the past.

(on camera): Just 20 years ago, the thought of space travel for pleasure was not plausible. Following the accident of the American space shuttle Challenger, some considered it unsafe. Now with a lease on Mir, a private company can at least offer the trip, a chance to turn science fiction into reality.

Tom Mintier, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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