Kazakhstan to fund ISS flight for homegrown astronaut

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MOSCOW, November 17 (RIA Novosti) -- A Kazakh national will fly to the International Space Station in October 2009 "on a commercial basis," the Russian space agency said on Monday.

"The only way a Kazakh astronaut can fly to the ISS is as part of a Russian expedition on a commercial basis for a period of 10 days," Talgat Musabayev, head of Kazakhstan's National Space Agency, was quoted as saying by Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency.

He said the Kazakh government had already given the go-ahead for the flight, while the country's ministry of economy and budget planning had earmarked funds in the national budget.

Musabayev earlier said the Kazakh astronaut would fly to the "Russian segment" of the ISS, adding however, that "the financial components of the flight" had yet to be finalized.

Roscosmos previously said the ISS flight by a Kazakh astronaut would mean a planned flight by a Russian space tourist would have to be cancelled.

The Russian space agency had announced in 2007 that businessman and United Russia politician Vladimir Gruzdev would become the country's first Russian space tourist.

Musabayev said that the astronaut and his back up will be chosen by a special committee.

The most likely candidates, however, are believed to be Mukhtar Aimakhanov and Aidyn Aimbetov, who have already undergone astronaut training at Russia's Gagarin space center.

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