Space Adventures Ltd.
By Gordon Sacks
When Sir Edmund Hillary returned from the first successful ascent of Mt. Everest in 1953, he said, We knocked the bastard off. Dennis Tito, who earned a masters degree in engineering science from Rensselaer at Hartford, is more contemplative about his achievement of becoming the first civilian space traveler: It was the greatest experience I ever had. To view the earth from space is truly exhilarating. On April 28, 2001, Tito was a much-publicized passenger on a Russian Soyuz rocket that blasted off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, carrying him to an eight-day stay aboard the International Space Station in 240-mile-high orbit.
For Tito, the trip to space was more than just an adventure. As the founder and chief executive of innovative investment analysis company Wilshire Associates, his career was built on helping others assess and manage risk. And Tito sees too much risk in humanity keeping all its eggs in one earthly basket. Instead, he envisions a future in which humans may some day live in self-sustaining colonies spread throughout the solar system.
Houston, we have a problem
Titos flight provoked a storm of controversy. NASA was adamantly against the flight, perhaps remembering the ill-fated Space Shuttle Challenger and the bad press that resulted. In fact, NASA threatened to send Russia a bill for any delays NASA claims were caused by Titos visit.
Tito, however, was not deterred by the opposition. There have been relatively few human space flights that have caught the attention of the general public in recent years. My flight certainly generated a lot of publicity for the International Space Station, and because of NASAs attitude, probably somewhat of a backlash toward NASA. I think there will be pressure from the public and from Congress to change their policies regarding civilian passengers.
And there are indications that Tito is right. In August, NASA and the Russian space agency reached an agreement that will allow more space tourists to fly to the International Space Station. Future paying customers will have to undergo physical training, demonstrate foreign language ability, and meet a personal suitability test.
I always thought about doing something like this, but it never was within my reach, says Tito, who first broached the issue with the then-Soviet Union more than 10 years ago.
He found the flight itself not difficult at all because of his training. The most difficult part, he says, was the returnvia a small capsuleto a parachute landing on land. The landing marked another first for Tito, as the first American to ever land in a capsule on land, as opposed to an ocean splashdown.
Overall, the hardest part was getting there in the first place, says Tito, who reportedly paid the Russians $20 million to be carried as a passenger. Getting everyone to agree, and going through the training, which was in Russia for eight months, most of it during the Russian winter. Difficult not because the training was that difficult, but just being away from my business and away from my family.
Many people dont have the opportunity to achieve their most overriding goals, and others find anticlimactic aspects to fulfilling a lifelong dream, but Tito deeply savored his achievement. The euphoria of being in space surprised him the most about the trip.
Tito was well-prepared for his trip, and he has concrete ideas for future travelers. I didnt have good management of my payload. Every time I opened something up, things would start floating out, and Id have to chase things around. So I could have managed my physical payload better if I had known. EVERYTHING would have had Velcro on it.
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