Dennis Tito, the world's first paying space tourist has returned safely back to Earth. Tito summed up his whole trip with these words, "It was perfect. It was paradise."
News story originally written on May 9, 2001
Dennis Tito is a 60-year-old American who used to work for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He then went into the private sector, founding his own firm which advises others on which stocks to buy. His own investing made him millions. But, it had always been Tito's dream to travel into space. And now he has done just that!
After NASA's rejection of his request to be taken as a civilian into space, Tito turned to the Russian Space Agency. Tito was able to buy astronaut training time, a trip to the International Space Station (ISS) in the Soyuz capsule, 6 days aboard the ISS, and of course, a return ticket back to Earth. All of this, for the price of $20 million!
Many people were critical of Tito's trip into space. NASA certainly wasn't thrilled at the prospect of a civilian hanging out in the multi-billion dollar space station. In fact, they made Tito sign a contract saying that if he broke or damaged anything, he would have to pay for it (and no, he didn't break anything!). NASA's contract also stated Tito could not enter US-built segments of the ISS without an escort. Others have said Tito's vacation in space was extravagant and should have given the $20 million to charity. But, the Russian cosmonauts (Talgat Musabayev and Yuri Baturin) who accompanied Tito on this trip to the ISS said they enjoyed having him along and that he was just one of the crew. And Dennis Tito certainly thought the trip was well worth it. During a press conference upon his return, Tito described his 8 days in space as euphoric and he said that he could've stayed up there for months! Tito doesn't have plans to return to space, but encourages others to pursue this and other adventures!