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Important dates in space tourism (continued)

October 12, 2008 - Richard Allen Garriott (born July 4, 1961) is the sixth space tourist. On October 12, 2008, Garriott became the second second-generation space traveler and the first offspring of an American astronaut to go into space, and the second person to wear the British Union flag in space. The Soyuz docked with the ISS station on October 14. During his spaceflight, Garriott took part in several education outreach efforts. On October 24, Russian cosmonauts, ISS Crew 17 Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, space tourist Richard Garriott, aboard Soyuz TMA-12 capsule, landed safely at 9:37 a.m. (0336 GMT, 07:36 Moscow time), 55 miles north of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan. They were lifted to the Kazakhstan Baikonur space center by helicopter, and then flew to Zvezdny Gorodok (Star City), Moscow Region.

December 31, 2008 - Virgin Galactic signed a 20 year lease agreement with the U.S. State of New Mexico. Virgin Galactic's world headquarters will be established in New Mexico and its base of operations will be located at New Mexico's Spaceport America, the nation's first purpose-built commercial spaceport. The signing of the lease agreement coincides with the beginning of the test flying program for Virgin Galactic's VMS Eve launch vehicle which got underway at the same time in Mojave, California. The VMS Eve will serve as the mother ship for SS2, the vehicle that will carry commercial astronauts into sub-orbital space from Spaceport America.

March 26, 2009 - After his first trip on April 7, 2007, Charles Simonyi, Hungarian computer software executive and former Microsoft employee, returned to space aboard Soyuz TMA-14. His flight back to Earth was aboard Soyuz TMA-13. He and two other crewmembers landed in Kazakhstan on April 8, 2009.

September 30, 2009 - Space Adventures announced on June, 4 2009, that Guy Laliberté - French Canadian entrepreneur, philanthropist and CEO of Cirque du Soleil - would fly on board Soyuz TMA-16 to the International Space Station as Canada's first space tourist and also the First Space Clown. Along with professional astronauts Jeff Williams and Maksim Surayev, spaceflight participant Laliberté successfully reached orbit on September 30, 2009 aboard Soyuz TMA-16. He returned to Earth on October 11, 2009 aboard Soyuz TMA-14. Laliberté's flight marks the third space flight by a Canadian in the same year, after Robert Thirsk and Julie Payette. He is also the third Québécois in space.

September 29, 2010 - Moscow-based company Orbital Technologies announced plans to launch an orbiting hotel in space by 2015-2016. The project will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, Orbital Technologies' CEO Sergei Kostenko said without disclosing a figure. "Russian and U.S. investors have already been found," he added. Individuals, professional crews and explorers interested in implementing their own research programs are expected to be the first clients of the commercial tourist hub, Kostenko said. The Space Adventurers company, the longstanding partner of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) in selecting clients for space tours, is expected to select clients for the new hotel. So far, several super-rich businesspeople have been the only space tourists, traveling into space with professional cosmonauts, but if the project is implemented the space tourism market is likely to develop rapidly. The tourist hub will not become a rival to the International Space Station (ISS) as they are designed to serve different aims, Kostenko said. "The ISS was designed to carry out scientific and research work at the request of the government. We plan to create a space hotel." In comparison with the ISS the space hotel will be much more comfortable. "The tourist hub will not resemble the International Space Station: it will be comfortable inside, and tourists will view the Earth through large portholes," Kostenko said. The hub will be designed to accommodate seven people, he added. The project will be implemented in cooperation with the state-controlled RKK Energia company and Roscosmos.

October 22, 2010 - The New Mexico Spaceport Authority dedicated the nearly two-mile long "Governor Bill Richardson Spaceway" at Spaceport America, representing significant progress toward launching commercial customers into space from the desert of New Mexico. Governor Bill Richardson, Sir Richard Branson and approximately 30 of more than 380 Virgin Galactic future astronauts attended the event along with guests from around the world and watched a flyover and landing by Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo, in a captive carry with SpaceShipTwo. "We are celebrating the world's first spaceway at the world's first purpose-built, commercial spaceport," said Governor Richardson. Governor Richardson, Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin Galactic future astronauts and the guests were all invited to tour the terminal hangar facility, which is nearing completion. The iconic building will serve as the operating hub for Virgin Galactic and is expected to house up to two WhiteKnightTwos and five SpaceShipTwos, in addition to all of Virgin's astronaut preparation facilities and mission control. The state-of-the-art launch facility is under construction near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and is expected to become fully operational in 2011. Officials at Spaceport America have been working closely with their anchor tenant Virgin Galactic and other leading aerospace firms such as Lockheed Martin, Moog-FTS, Armadillo Aerospace, and UP Aerospace to develop commercial spaceflight at the new facility. The economic impact of launches, tourism and new construction at Spaceport America are already delivering on its promise to the people of New Mexico.

To be continued...