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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

American millionairess boards space station

KOROLEV, Russia AFP 20/09/2006 18:11

The first ever female space tourist Anousheh Ansari of the United States has settled into the International Space Station (ISS) for a multi-million dollar cosmic holiday.

Ansari, whose Soyuz spacecraft safely docked with the ISS Wednesday after completing its journey from Earth, will spend the next eight days on board with five professional astronauts.

Ground control at Korolev, outside Moscow, showed live footage of Ansari and two astronauts travelling with her entering the station and embracing the current occupants.

Ansari, wearing a black baseball cap and a yellow shirt, smiled broadly as she entered the station. On Earth, space officials and Ansari's relatives applauded.

"She made history. She's very lucky to have a great crew and she had great training," Hamid Ansari, her husband, told АFР when the Soyuz vessel docked with the ISS.

An Iranian-born US citizen and telecoms tycoon, Ansari is the world's fourth space tourist. She accompanied NASA's Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russia's Mikhail Tyurin to the ISS.

The three blasted off Monday from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Their Soyuz craft docked at 0521 GMT, space flight officials said at the Korolev centre outside Moscow.

"We'll look after her," Tyurin told her relatives on Earth in a video link-up with the crew. Hamid Ansari congratulated her, as relatives expressed pride and joy.

On Monday, a possible chemical leak aboard the ISS gave a brief scare when the ventilation system was shut down. The three ISS occupants put on surgical masks and gloves after a bad odour alerted them to a possible leak.

Ansari's sister Atousa Raissyan said her determined sibling's childhood dream of entering space was always bound to come true. "I knew she would do it sooner or later."

Ansari, 40, will return to Earth on September 28 with two of the station's current occupants, Russia's Pavel Vinogradov and American Jeffrey Williams. Thomas Reiter from Germany will stay on board.

Ansari is thought to have paid about 25 million dollars (20 million euros) for the flight, which she has said is the realisation of her childhood dreams.

Born in 1966 in Iran, Ansari left the country for the United States with her parents at the age of 16 shortly after the Islamic revolution and launched herself into the study of electronics and data processing.

She made millions in telecoms and her family has gone on to invest in technology and space exploration, contributing 10 million dollars to the X Foundation, set up to encourage advances in human space flight.

"She is a very determined, resolute woman," Eric Anderson, chairman of Space Adventures, the company behind her flight to the ISS, said earlier in a telephone interview with АFР.

Before setting off, Ansari said: "I hope that not only my flights, but the life I have lived so far, become an inspiration for all youth all over the world, especially women and girls around the world to pursue their dreams."


Anousheh Ansari Space Blog
First blog post from space?


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