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Tito: Manned missions do little for science

Dennis Tito said he volunteered for kitchen duty on the busy international space station  

By Richard Stenger

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Sending humans into orbit might capture the imagination but the expensive enterprise does little to advance science, the first paying space tourist told CNN.

Dennis Tito, who paid about $20 million for a jaunt into space last month, said astronauts and cosmonauts must spend almost all their time on mundane tasks.

"Most science in space is being conducted by unmanned vehicles. In my view, there is limited amount of science that takes place on the international space station," the California investment fund manager said.

Tito said he asked one of the residents how much research she had conducted since arriving at the space station months ago.

"'About two days,' was the answer," Tito told participants at a CNN World Report conference in Atlanta on Tuesday.

The daunting logistics of keeping numerous humans in space takes up most of the time of the space station residents, said Tito, who spent a week aboard the orbiting outpost.

A former NASA rocket scientist, Tito tagged along with two cosmonauts who delivered a fresh Soyuz capsule to space station Alpha. Besides listening to opera music and taking pictures out the window, Tito volunteered to serve meals to his crewmates.

The face of citizen explorer Dennis Tito looms over his son Brad as the younger poses a question at a conference in Atlanta  

"That relieved them of about six hours of mundane work they would have done themselves," he said.

Tito intensified a public feud with NASA chief Dan Goldin, who vigorously criticized the privately financed trip on a Russian space vessel to the space station. Goldin had said Tito's lack of experience on U.S. equipment could have jeopardized the safety of the professionals in space.

"Any responsible adult doesn't need months of NASA training not to push the wrong button. That's absurd," said Tito, who spent almost one year preparing for the trip with his Russian crewmates. "I was definitely over-trained for this mission."

Tito fielded a variety of questions both bizarre and serious from World Report attendees. While in space, could he see the U.S. flag on the moon? No. Do people in space wear adult diapers? Russian cosmonauts do not. Shuttle astronauts do when they launch. Could his millions have been better spent on those in need rather than a personal vacation in zero gravity?

"This money should have been spent on the poor. And it was. One hundred dollars a month is the average salary of a Russian aerospace worker," Tito quipped.

The 60-year-old self-described child at heart even took a question from his son, who took the occasion to wax poetic about his eccentric father.

Some men get a Harley Davidson motorcycle when they do through a midlife crisis, the younger Tito observed, but my dad was a little different.

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