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Russia Announces End to Space Tourism in 2010 96

Posted by timothy
from the will-rely-solely-on-domain-name-sales dept.
epsas writes "On Cosmonaut's Day (April 12th 2008) the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) announced that they will cease it's $40,000,000-a-flight space tourism enterprise. Vitaly Perminov, the head of Roskosmos, elaborated on this statement by citing national criticism of the space tourism project; all the while reiterating Roskosmos's focus on the International Space Station and the new launch site at Vostochny Cosmodrome: 'Vitaly Lopota, the president of the Energia space rocket corporation, said he believes space tourism is a forced measure compensating for insufficient financing of the Russian space program.' This statement (made the day before) by Vitaly Lopota follows another announcement that 'Energia is ready to send missions to the Moon and Mars if told to do so by the government.'"
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Russia Announces End to Space Tourism in 2010

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  • so?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by caffeinemessiah (918089) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:06PM (#23137364) Journal

    italy Lopota, the president of the Energia space rocket corporation, said he believes space tourism is a forced measure compensating for insufficient financing of the Russian space program

    And this is bad...why?? If space programs are languishing in funding for either development or research, why not charge rich suckers (with dreams just like us) huge amounts of money to fund it? If you have the infrastructure, it sounds lucrative. And I'd be willing to bet that the market would support even more ridiculous prices than $40 mil.

    • by symbolset (646467) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:16PM (#23137410) Journal

      I don't care if they call it the Pepsi Cosmodrome and sell seats that defray the costs. I actually hope they get YouTube to sponsor streaming video of the entire operation, with product placement, endorsements, memorabilia, space scouts and the rest of "The Man Who Sold The Moon [wikipedia.org]" experience. What I care about is that they go, and keep going.

      The Russians pioneered manned spaceflight [bayqongyr.com] and it's not for us to tell them how to do it. If they like capitalism, so much the better.

      • by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @08:22PM (#23137752)
        I suspect its a pride issue rather than anything else. To them having paid seats looks like they have to go around begging to get enough money to take off.
        • by megaditto (982598) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @09:24PM (#23138048)
          Beggers can't be chosers.
        • by TheLink (130905) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @11:16PM (#23138620) Journal
          Pride? Begging?

          "space tourism" was the most important experiment the ISS was ever involved in.

          To have your space program sustainable due to willing customers rather than solely dependent on government enforced taxes is what I call making progress[1]. One of the milestones in aerospace and the Russians were pioneers.

          It is a step backwards if they discontinue space tourism (and do not move it to some other agency/organization).

          [1] When people stop clapping hands and cheering every time after space vehicles somehow manage to lift off without blowing up, that's even more progress ;).
          • I don't disagree with you champ, but I'm fairly familiar with the Russian mindset, and I have no trouble believing that that is the reason they are stopping it.
            • by TheLink (130905)
              I agree with you too.

              Still, from one of the links 'In his congratulatory letter to those working in the space industry, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia was the first nation "to open the way to the stars to humanity."'

              I'm sure space tourism will count almost as much as "first person in space" in the history books.

              Now what someone should organize is a "vote off the planet" "reality show". Then we could vote people off the planet (return trip or one-way ;) ). Now that would be what I call pro
        • by Dr. Cody (554864)
          Speaking of pride in the face of destitution, are any of you guys getting a lot of ads for "Anastasia International" lately?

          It's marketing genius, really.
        • by rbanffy (584143)
          "Control is an illusion, order our comforting lie. From chaos, through chaos, into chaos we fly"

          Likes the tagline. Where is it from?
    • Re:so?? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:23PM (#23137444) Homepage Journal
      This is more about Russian national pride. They felt humiliated at the state of desperation they had sunk to, so now that their economy is doing better, they're looking to restore some of the prestige and remove the "Filene's Basement" aura now attached to their space program.

      Russians are very proud, and theres a huge resurgence of nationalism currently. That's whats behind this.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by freedumb2000 (966222)
        Instead of canceling it, they could create a huge media event around it. They are after all the ones to even offer comercialized space tourism, if that is not something to be proud of. In the beginning they might have done it out of desperation, but if they wanted they could bring it to the next level now. Too bad really, to have misplaced national pride get in the way, but I guess Putin stands for backwards thinking with long passed national values (which he imprints on on his citizens). Too bad really.
      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        All they're going to do is put more money in Virgin Galactic's pockets instead of their own.

        Even so, I wonder if this is about "national pride" at all. The Russian space tourism came in at, what, $20,000,000? Virgin Galactic's tickets will be someting like $200,000 - 1/100th of the price. Sure, you will only be skipping along the atmosphere, but I'm sure there are a lot of rich people who wouldn't mind making that tiny $17,800,000 compromise.

        • by QuantumG (50515) *
          Yeah, it's aimed at a different market segment. Maybe if SpaceX ever gets a man-rated Dragon into the air then a $20 million product will be available again.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Like you have pointed out - these commercial space tourism joints only get a small taste of space. If you tag along with the Russians you get to experience a complete resupply mission. In my opinion you cannot compare the two.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by SpinyNorman (33776)
        Interesting theory, but if you read the article it tells you the actual reason! ;-)
      • Not everyone is from the US East Coast. The Filene' Basement refers to this establishment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filene's_Basement [wikipedia.org]
      • Tourism really needs to continue. I have seen kids that have noticed it and think that it is interesting. They are learning that you do something other than shoot for being an astronaut and still make it into space
      • by Tablizer (95088)
        Russians are very proud, and theres a huge resurgence of nationalism currently.

        Fueled largely by international hatred of W and his policies, and a bit by oil revenues. (I'm just the messenger. Even if you agree with W, you have to admit he's very unpopular around the world.)
             
        • by khallow (566160)
          Your message is in error. Bush is very unpopular. But blaming him for nationalism in another country, that I might add would be there no matter who was president of the US, shows lack of understanding.
      • Re:so?? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by baboo_jackal (1021741) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @11:40PM (#23138746)

        This is more about Russian national pride. They felt humiliated at the state of desperation they had sunk to, so now that their economy is doing better, they're looking to restore some of the prestige and remove the "Filene's Basement" aura now attached to their space program.

        If you were to replace all the "they/their" with "Putin/Putin's," you'd be spot-on correct.

        Anthropomorphizing nations and their macroscopic behavior as if "all citizens" were behind it, and that a given nation "feels/thinks/believes" one particular thing in unanimity (or even on the balance) is a common basis of flawed statements and arguments about "national policy."
  • Tourists (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:12PM (#23137386)
    From TFA:
    "Tourism is a forced activity. I am sorry, but we have built the
    ISS [the International Space Station] not for space tourists but for
    serving the needs of the people of Earth," Lopota said.


    Ah finally! It's nice to have confirmation from officials that tourists are, in fact, not people. Now if only i could get that hunting permit ...
  • I think this is a good refocussing of their efforts-maybe in twenty years for 40 mill we can go chill on mars :D
    • Yeah, but with inflation at 4% that would be $87,644,925.72
      • by Rahga (13479)
        Doubling the price through inflation isn't a problem as long as they outsource to America for half the price. Wonders of the weak dollar.
    • Not a cat in hell's chance; an attempt at a manned Mars mission won't happen this side of 2050. And I still haven't had any takers on that bet. *shrug*
      • One can always hope. Unfortunately all that will catalyze the trip would be another arms race..
      • How much and how will this be handled. And exactly what is the bet? I think that before 2035, man will step on Mars.
        • Well, if you're serious, we'll have to get in touch offline... I'm thinking a $100 stake (which won't buy you a beer in 2035, so it's just a bit of fun really.) I'm happy to do it on a virtual handshake I guess.
          • I am serious. I believe that we will shoot for the moon around 2015-2017 (commercial and china). The more so because of our issue with another country that is escalating (is moving from defense strategy to attack strategy ), combined with the one material that we can not easily shoot into space; radioactive material. Uranium/plutonium is now thought to be on the moon surface which would make this our ability to provide cheap power on the moon surface, in the ground, and most importantly, rocket fuel. We wil
  • Unfortunate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chairboy (88841) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:23PM (#23137442) Homepage
    The space tourist was paying most of the cost of the Soyuz booster/capsule while allowing the RSA to continue meeting its commitments to the project. This is a step backwards for space, government funding doesn't have the same potential for long term growth that commercial money does. Look at the airplane, for instance. Government funding did big things, but the real growth and expansion came with private funds.
    • by QuantumG (50515) *
      There's an interesting article on the Space Review [thespacereview.com] at the moment that outlines how the air freight industry really got started and suggests that a parallel for sub-orbital vehicles might not be completely inconceivable.
    • by Murrquan (1161441)
      As long as the government's in charge of it, though, they're the ones calling the shots.
    • Re:Unfortunate (Score:4, Informative)

      by khallow (566160) on Monday April 21, 2008 @12:18AM (#23138920)
      Continued tourist flights to the ISS were untenable. By 2010, the station is fully operational (heh). There'd be a lot more resistance from the other ISS partners to continuing this. There's also the possibility that the launch schedule after 2010 can't fit in a space tourist. The station has to maintain a microgravity environment which means eliminating vibration. Dockings are a source of vibration wo even now the number of dockings to the station is very restricted.
    • There's no more chance of any significant "expansion" of manned activity in space than there is of building cities in Antarctica.
      • I think the space expansion will happen first, but the way global warming's going antarctic cities don't look that unlikely either. Once they find the vast oil and coal reserves there it's all over.

  • Is this good or bad? The media show of the few immeasurably rich going into space has brought good attention to the space programs, but at times, it has been humorous in a sad sort of way.

    More money on robotic research, best bang for the buck in outer space, IMHO.
    Also, why do we need to go back to the moon in order to go to Mars? I see no rhyme or reason in that stupidity except thats what GW Bush wants, which means that it will probably disappear in a year or two.

    • The moon is quite important to a mars trip. Getting from earth to the moon uses a lot of fuel. Going to mars from the moon is easier, especially if you send some extra fuel and supplies to the moon before you get there. Going to the moon also gives you a chance to test out your equipment in a harsh environment while you are still close to home.
      • Nonsense. It takes a huge amount of energy to drop back down the gravity well to Mars three days out of Earth, and another huge amount to get back up and back onto a trans-martian orbital trajectory. Secondly the martian environment is massively different from the moon. For example, a lunar lander isn't going to work on Mars, what with the much higher gravity, much higher arrival speed, oh yes and the atmosphere. There's no benefit whatsoever in stopping at the moon on the way, and anyone who says differen
        • What about resources that can be mined from the moon? At the very least, wouldn't it make sense to take off from Earth as lightly as possible and pick up heavier resources (water, building materials) on the way? Of course that relies on an established lunar infrastructure to be in place first, but once that's up and running...
          • Why would robots need water? I notice that the earlier missions to Mars (Spirit/Opportunity/etc) didn't need to stop off for supplies - why would future missions?
          • What resources, rocks? I've got news for you, spacecraft thrusters don't run on rock. And as you say, a huge iraq-war scale investment would be required to set up that infrastructure anyway. Believe me, people cleverer than you and I have thought about this, which is why the official NASA Mars mission template/ design study is a straight-to-Mars design and has been for thirty years or more.
            • Agreed - no good reason to stop at the moon to get to Mars - except perhaps to dump the politicians out. You want to assemble and gather things - do it in LEO (low earth orbit) and then get out of LEO for Mars.
        • and another huge amount to get back up and back onto a trans-martian orbital trajectory.

          Omitting this non-essential objective from the mission is what makes it do-able.

          I'll bet you think I'm kidding. I'm not.

      • by drsquare (530038)
        Then we have to work out what's more efficient, sending a spaceship and fuel to the Moon, then to Mars, or going straight to Mars. Unless you're assuming that the fuel and spaceship get to the Moon by magic.
  • Reprioritization? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zappepcs (820751) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:36PM (#23137516) Journal
    I'm not really seeing the problem with that. Personally, I think that if politicians and world leaders (I'm looking at you over there in the Whitehouse) could stop their idiocy and work together on a few things, we might find resources (not jut money) to do things like exploit^H^H^H^Hore the solar system a bit, perhaps go finding things like more room to live, more minerals, and perhaps some mysterious substance that helps us to manage global climate change.

    The more that we all sit here on this rock arguing about stupid stuff, the longer the Borg has to get here before we are ready, god damnit!

    Seriously, the more we learn about space, the solar system, universe etc. the more prepared we will be to better care for this little rock we call home. I do not believe that there is any one country that has the resources to do this alone. I believe it will take huge cooperative efforts to find the answers that humankind actually needs.

    Right now we are starving people for the chance to make weak fuel out of corn. When you look at the facts of biofuel, it seems astoundingly stupid to do what we are doing as a group. I think that if we are going to find something that will help serve our energy needs we will have to keep exploring. Only through exploration do we find things that change life as we know it.

    Sadly, if Vladimir Smith found out how to create a zero point module (go Stargate) next week, it would be kept a secret and not released to the public until some whistle-blower feels guilty on their deathbed. ZPMs and other such 'free energy' systems/devices and those that do not make anyone any money will be hidden from sight. A sad fact, and not to seem socialist but if we don't all try cooperation to solve some of the very urgent problems, Armageddon sans god is all that is left us. Nuclear energy might become safer with new discoveries lately, and I'm all for it. If you are not using it, safety and discoveries to make it safer are hardly on the radar of those who need to be inventing stuff like that. With nearly free electricity we can carry on with electric vehicles.

    The space agencies around the globe really need to work together as has been shown, space tourism really isn't going to foot the bill for the kind of exploration that we need to be doing.

    Solar and wind power are not THE answer to the energy needs of the human race and the planet Earth. We need to expand technologically beyond what we have so far. Look at Monsanto? GM foods and people are still starving around the globe. If we don't get some socialist ideas in action soon, we're headed for a scifi nightmare ending. Space exploration thus far has embodied all that is generally good in humankind: Exploration, advancement, betterment, working for the common good. Even if it was a space race for bragging rights or dominance of the domain, it was done in a way that has helped us all in one way or another. We need much more of it.

    Yes, you can believe the book "The day after Roswell" http://www.amazon.com/Day-After-Roswell-Philip-Corso/dp/067101756X [amazon.com]if you like, but the way that space exploration has changed our lives is without comparison. I hope that this is one thing that we, as the human race, end up getting right.
    • by khallow (566160)

      Given that most of your post is off-topic and wrong, here and there, I'll just focus on the sentences that are mostly on topic.

      I'm not really seeing the problem with that. Personally, I think that if politicians and world leaders (I'm looking at you over there in the Whitehouse) could stop their idiocy and work together on a few things, we might find resources (not jut money) to do things like exploit^H^H^H^Hore the solar system a bit, perhaps go finding things like more room to live, more minerals, and perhaps some mysterious substance that helps us to manage global climate change.

      What's wrong with "exploit"? It's a good word and accurately describes what we're going to do with the universe. Seize the day.

      The space agencies around the globe really need to work together as has been shown, space tourism really isn't going to foot the bill for the kind of exploration that we need to be doing.

      I disagree. Competition is a more effective form of cooperation. Let's do that first. Second, space tourism has never been presented as the be-all of space development. As you've probably noticed, we have a serious lack of profitable opportunities in s

      • by zappepcs (820751)
        To put a finer point on it, and try to keep it all on topic, at least within the scope of my comment's original intent:

        Exploit the solar system: like big oil has done for the Earth. This is not a good thing for the average joe.

        Space tourism has not been successful so far. I didn't say it couldn't be. Competition is always good... well, unless you consider that the big oil companies are competing? They are ALL making obscene profits at our expense. These are not the companies that I want competing for the re
        • by khallow (566160)

          Exploit the solar system: like big oil has done for the Earth. This is not a good thing for the average joe.

          It has given us modern civilization, version 1.0. Most people think that is a good thing.

          Space tourism has not been successful so far. I didn't say it couldn't be.

          Given that nobody is in the space tourism business, it is surprising that we have any. As I see it, the few tourists that Russia launches will generate significant income for Russia and help its space program in a time of need. So it has been successful for the limited purpose so far.

          Competition is always good... well, unless you consider that the big oil companies are competing? They are ALL making obscene profits at our expense. These are not the companies that I want competing for the resources of the solar system.

          I think the problem here is that obscene profits are due to the restrictions on the oil industry in the US (and possibly Europe).

  • haha (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nyall (646782) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:47PM (#23137578) Homepage
    I bet this is just marketing.
    sort of like how disney keeps saying that they are going to lock such and such title up in their vault for 50 years and not ever let it see the light of day.
  • I'm actually wondering if maybe part of the reason for the announcement is to spare them from having to compete head-to-head with the SpaceX Dragon [spacex.com] in the commercial sector, which will likely be carrying crew to orbit in the 2010 timeframe at a lower per-person price than the Soyuz. It'd be kind of humiliating for Energia to be out-done in the commercial space sector by a US startup company, but they can save face if they announce ahead of time that they're exiting the industry due to reasons of national pr
  • by mapkinase (958129) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @08:48PM (#23137880) Homepage Journal
    End of Russian space tourism - more bucks to private space programs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Except that the Virgin/Scaled Composites thing is just a Mach 2 rollercoaster straight up to 100km, then plummet back to earth; whereas the Russian have a real space program, you know, that actually puts things in orbit. That's much, much harder to do.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @09:19PM (#23138016) Homepage Journal
    Now that Russia has oil money due to high oil prices, they can afford to fund their space program without the need for tourism. I doubt tourism was profitable. They probably did it keep the space program alive and space workers employed during hard times. But with the oil money, they can end that practice.
  • They were no doubt concerned about an incident between paid visitors and ISS personnel resulting in the headline: "In Soviet Russia Tourists Space You!".
  • ...space tours you!
  • Wow, I must have missed the news article on that.
  • Okay, so it's maybe not quite totally at the same level, but there are other groups who are certainly looking at exploiting a good level of cash in people wanting to get into space:

    Nothing wrong with making money off it according to Richard Branson
    http://u.tv/newsroom/indepth.asp?id=70139&pt=n [u.tv]
  • As several posters have pointed out, Russia's fortune's have shifted and oil is making them serious rubles. We on the other hand might want to think about supplementing NASA with some tourists since we are broke.
  • Now I have a deadline to raise $40,000,000...
    In soviet Russia the Space has a time limit!
    (sorry I couldn't resist..)
  • by jrhawk42 (1028964) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @11:17PM (#23138624)
    By 2010 virgin galactic will have several flights, and a decent track record offering flights at a much cheaper rate(Virgin flights are only $200,000), and better suited for civilians (3 days training). It wouldn't make much sense to try to compete against them, and we all know how the Russians love business competition. Personally I'm not going to be too excited until we start getting flights to the moon, and really there's a ton of way cooler places on Earth you can go for a lot cheaper.
  • Sir Richard, if you perchance read Slashdot, this may well be your (and my) last chance for the Soyuz!

    I apologize to you, sir, for the rather base familiarity in my tawdry but very sensible Soyuz plea to you [youtube.com] , and would beg that you please reconsider this ill-thought Virgin Galactic nonsense!

    I regret the price I gave you-$25M - was a tad understated, but still, $40M is surely not beyond our purse-strings, is it?

    I await your kind reply, sir, and if it is not soon forthcoming, I shall resum
  • well. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TheShadowzero (884085)
    I feel like this is a good thing. I wouldn't want the final frontier to suffer the same consequences as other tourist spots. Space is not something that should be exploited for commercial purposes, at least until we all have spaceships and can go wherever we want at will.

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