21:16 GMT +324 February 2018
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    Russian space tourist to lose out to Kazakh astronaut

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    MISSION CONTROL, October 14 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian space tourist hopeful is to miss out on a trip to the stars in the autumn of 2009, with a Kazakh astronaut likely to take his place, a Russian space agency official said on Tuesday.

    Roscosmos announced in 2007 that businessman and politician, Vladimir Gruzdev, would become the country's first Russian space tourist, most likely in November 2009.

    "There is not yet an opportunity to send the unqualified Russian citizen, whose name you all know, to the International Space Station," said Alexei Krasnov, head of manned programs at the Roscosmos space agency.

    He said talks were underway with Kazakhstan to send one of its professional astronauts into space next fall, adding that, "I have no doubt that this flight will take place, because we have received all the funding from Kazakhstan."

    He added that Gruzdev could be sent into space if a decision to build an extra Soyuz spacecraft was made.

    Gruzdev, a member of the ruling United Russia party, announced his plans to travel into space in April 2007. He later underwent a medical examination and was given the go ahead to begin a space mission training program.

    The politician and businessman is looking to become the world's seventh space tourist. The sixth, Richard Garriott, the son of a former U.S. astronaut, blasted off with a Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan on Sunday. Soyuz docked with the International Space Station on Tuesday. Garriott, who made his fortune in online computer games, reportedly paid $30 million for the trip.

    Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the Russian parliament lower house, earlier said his United Russia party could pay for Gruzdev's flight from party funds as a "contribution to the space program."

    In late 2007, the Forbes magazine estimated Gruzdev's wealth at $820 million. He made much of his money in the supermarket business.

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