A millionaire inventor-entrepreneur from New Jersey has resumed training in Russia for a mission to the international space station, a year after he was bumped from an earlier flight due to an unspecified health condition, the company arranging the trip announced Wednesday.
In a statement, Virginia-based Space Adventures said that Greg Olsen, founder and chief executive officer of Sensors Unlimited, was back at Russia's Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, outside Moscow.
The 60-year-old Olsen's health condition had been detected several weeks into his training during a routine medical examination. At the time, Russian physicians said that Olsen's training had to be suspended, but even then Space Adventures held out hope that he could eventually get into space.
"The condition has since been remedied," Space Adventures said, "and after a recent re-evaluation, Dr. Olsen has received clearance to resume cosmonaut training in preparation for an upcoming Soyuz flight to the international space station."
Exercise and Russian lessons
Stacey Tearne, a spokeswoman for Space Adventures, told MSNBC.com that Olsen returned to training on May 16 and had three or four months of work ahead of him. During the nearly yearlong break, he kept up with his cardiovascular conditioning as well as private Russian-language lessons, Tearne said.
"Everyone's excited and just so enthusiastic," Tearne said. "He's excited about the mission, and that's an inspiration to us."
Tearne said she had no information about the potential timing of Olsen's multimillion-dollar flight. Soyuz craft are sent to the space station every six months, and the next flight is scheduled for the September-October time frame, with the third seat still apparently open. Olsen could theoretically complete his training in time to make that trip, in the company of Expedition 12 astronauts Bill McArthur and Valery Tokarev.
Under this scenario, Olsen would return to Earth a week later alongside the Expedition 11 crew, Sergei Krikalev and John Phillips, who are currently in the midst of a six-month tour of duty in orbit.
$20 million list price
Space Adventures arranged for similar short-term trips to the space station for California millionaire Dennis Tito in 2001 and South African millionaire Mark Shuttleworth in 2002. The list price for such tours is $20 million, although both Tito and Shuttleworth are said to have paid less than that to the Russians.
Although such fliers are often called space tourists, Olsen said last year that he preferred the term "private researcher," because he intended to use his company's infrared imaging system for research aboard the space station.
It's not unusual for medical problems to turn up during Russia's cosmonaut training examinations. Pop singer Lance Bass, who was involved in an unsuccessful bid to visit the space station, was found to have a minor heart condition during his exam and had it corrected on an outpatient basis. Another unsuccessful space candidate, former NASA official Lori Garver, had to have her gall bladder removed in order to continue with her cosmonaut training.
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