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Russia says no more space tourists after 2009

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Russia's space agency chief said there's no more room for space tourists in the International Space Station after this year because of plans to double the full-time crew at the orbiting outpost

Roskosmos top brass Anatoly Perminov told the government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta in an interview published today that the last commercial flights will be made by Vladimir Gruzdev, a cosmonaut from the ex-Soviet republic sometime in Fall 2009, and by US software designer Charles Simonyi in March.

Hungarian-born Simonyi made is fortune as lead designer on Microsoft Word and Excel and will be making his second visit to the ISS courtesy of the Russian space tourism program.

Perminov told the newspaper that "there won't be any possibility for making tourist flights to the station after 2009."

This year, the ISS plans to double its resident crew from three to six people. NASA's Endeavour mission STS-126 equipped the low-orbit outpost with additional quarters and equipment for the additional members, yet sadly neglected to haul up a guest wing for paying visitors.

So far, six space tourists have joined the ISS crew, each paying around $25m for the trip. ISS special guests include Ubuntu guru Mark Shuttleworth, video game pioneer Richard Garriot (AKA Lord British), and US millionaire Gregory Olsen.

Perminov's 2009 cut-off date would seem to dash the starchild dreams Google founder Sergey Brin, who has already put down $5m to ride aboard a Russian rocket in 2011.

Alas, billionaires hoping for the ultimate view of Earth may need to settle for the sub-orbital machinations of Virgin Galactic and its fleet of rocketplanes still under development. ®

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