Russian officials are making noises that British sopranonaut Sarah Brightman might not take a joy ride to the International Space Station after all. It’s difficult to tell whether there are serious issues with the upcoming flight, or whether this is a Russian negotiating tactic.
Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin told reporters on Friday that Brightman intends to fly to ISS but that the space agency hasn’t made a final decision to let her do so. He expected officials would make a decision during the second half of next year.
“We need to provide young cosmonauts with flight practice,” Popovkin reportedly said, apparently in reference to a group of eight cosmonaut trainees recently selected by the Russian space agency.
scosmos hasn’t had a problem in the past with replacing a full-time cosmonaut with a well-heeled Western space tourist willing to pay tens of the millions of dollars to a space agency that has often needed the money.
However, those flights took place under Popovkin’s predecessor, who was fired from his job in 2011. It’s possible that Roscosmos’ current boss takes a dimmer view of these space joy rides.
Meanwhile, the man in charge of training cosmonauts has floated the theory that Brightman announced her plan to fly in space simply to promote her upcoming album and world tour.
“This is not the first time such a situation has arisen. Of course, this information is news to me, but I’m not very surprised,” said Sergei Krikalev, who runs the Cosmonaut Training Center. “Many years ago there was an option to send one singer into space. He underwent medical selection and there were plans to sign a contract with him. I don’t have precise information on the situation with Sarah Brightman, but such things are probably possible, yes,”
Krikalev is probably referring to pop singer Lance Bass. The official story is that Bass was unable to raise enough money to fund his space trip. This is the first time I can recall anyone accusing the singer of using his planned trip as simply a publicity stunt.
Krikalev spoke of space tourism as sort of a necessary e
vil, an unavoidable activity that can help fill funding gaps but nothing to base a space program on.
Russian space authorities have made these sorts of noises before. On several occasions, they’ve talked about not continuing with space tourism flights. However, they always seemed to find a seat for the next tourist, who usually paid considerably more than the tourist who flew previously.
How Brightman plans to pay for her space trip is an interesting question. Her net worth is estimated at $45 million, which is probably about what the flight will cost (if not more).
So, we’ll see what happens here.