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Ansari prize founder heads for space

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The woman behind the Ansari-X prize has been confirmed as the next space tourist. She was given a seat on the next Russian mission to the International Space Station after a Japanese businessman was found medically unfit for the journey.

Anousheh Ansari signed up to be a reserve for Daisuke Enomoto last month, telling reporters at the time: "Anyway you can fly me, I'll go."

She is something of a space nut, it seems. She was the driving force behind the Ansari-X prize, awarded in 2004 to Burt Rutan and Paul Allen's SpaceShipOne for the first commercial, sub-orbital spaceflight. The BBC reports that she persuaded the wealthy Ansari family to donate the $10m prize money.

Ansari is also leading a new foray into the space business with a company called Prodea, which is working with Virginia-based Space Adventures to develop a range of suborbital craft.

She also holds a reservation for one of the first flights on the passenger version of SpaceShipOne, currently being developed by Richard Branson under the Virgin Galactic Spaceflight banner.

She will join the Russian crew on Tuesday next week ahead of a launch planned for 14 September. ®

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