MOSCOW, October 5 (RIA Novosti) - Russian businessman and politician Vladimir Gruzdev will be the first Russian space tourist, but his flight will not go ahead until 2009, Russian space agency (Roskosmos) head Anatoly Perminov said Friday.
"We are considering Vladimir Gruzdev's flight with the International Space Station development program member countries. November 2009 seems a likely date, not the fall of 2008, and I cannot put a final timeline to it since the decision will be influenced by the U.S. and other European Space Agency member countries, Japan, and others," Perminov said.
He also said Vladimir Gruzdev, the United Russia pro-presidential party member, would then have sufficient time for in depth space training.
Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the Russian parliament lower house, said his United Russia party could pay for the flight from the party funds. "It will constitute our non-budget contribution to the space program," he said.
The flight will cost around $25 million.
Mark Belakovsky, a spokesman for the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems (IMBP), said Gruzdev had undergone a medical examination at the IMBP and been given the go ahead to begin the training program.
In early August, Russian researchers, including Gruzdev, dived 4,200 meters (14,000 feet) below the Pole in two submersibles to gather scientific evidence to bolster the country's claim to a vast swathe of Arctic territory, planting a titanium Russian flag on the seafloor. The mission attracted criticism from rival Arctic nations.
Gruzdev, who will be the world's sixth space tourist, told Russian newspaper Vedomosti in April about his plans for the flight.
According to Forbes magazine, Gruzdev's wealth is estimated at $820 million (79th). He and Alexander Zanadvorov equally control 7K Invest Holding that holds a 74.81% stake in the Seventh Continent chain, and 99.46% of the MKapital company, which owns part of the grocery chain's real estate.
The five previous space tourists also had to pay up to $25 million to travel to the International Space Station. Of the five, four were from the U.S., with the other from South Africa.