The Russian state-run TV channel ORT is to launch a televised competition whose winner will blast off to the International Space Station (ISS) in the autumn of 2003, the network said on Tuesday
An agreement to this effect was signed Tuesday by the ORT management and the Russian space agency Rosaviakosmos, the news agency report said.
All the participants in the contest are to train at the Star City astronaut training centre outside Moscow.
Two previous space "tourists" have already flown to the ISS aboard Russian space craft. Dennis Tito, a former NASA engineer, flew in April last year, while South Africa's Mark Shuttleworth made the same trip exactly a year later. Both paid the standard fare of 20 million dollars.
US boy band heartthrob Lance Bass, the 23-year-old star of pop group N'Sync, spent several months this year training for a trip to space.
But Russian space officials tore up their agreement with him last month because his sponsors failed to cough up the money for the October 28 flight.
His training and flight were to have been documented for a six to eight-part TV series to be reportedly broadcast on the MTV music channel.
Russia's space program is desperately stretched for cash, and its previous decisions to offer commercial space shots for civilians prompted protests from US space officials, who argue that space tourists pose a danger to the entire ISS crew.
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Tourism's Pitch Men Get Ready
Los Angeles - May 06, 2002
The dream is alive, has a price tag of $20 million and a small queue is forming. Later this month, the Russians are required to announce who the next 'visiting crewmember' will be in order to meet the terms of the formal crew criteria agreed by the Multilateral Coordination Board for the international space station in January.
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