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 businessman who used to work for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 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 Tito 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!). 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 after the trip, Tito said his 8 days in space were 10 times better than he expected 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!