Entrepreneur’s $20 million trip to space station back on

TRENTON, New Jersey (AP) _ Millionaire scientist Gregory Olsen’s $20 million (euro16 million) flight to the International Space Station on a Russian rocket, which was put on hold last summer because of health concerns, is back on track.

The Russian space program recently gave Olsen medical clearance to go on an upcoming mission and he resumed training on May 16, the Virginia company arranging Olsen’s trip said Wednesday. Olsen, who turned 60 last month, now is training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, near Moscow, said Stacey Tearne, spokeswoman for Space Adventures Ltd. of Arlington, Virginia.

Olsen, who co-founded infrared-camera maker Sensors Unlimited Inc., appears to be confirmed for the next Soyuz space capsule mission in October, said Marshall Cohen, president and co-founder of the company based just outside Princeton, New Jersey.

“He’s very excited,” Cohen told The Associated Press. “He’s having a great time. He said it’s going very well.”

The October Soyuz mission is one of two regularly scheduled flights each year, when the spaceship brings supplies and a fresh crew to the International Space Station, Tearne said. She could not confirm when Olsen, who is footing the bill for his flight, will depart.

However, Cohen said that Olsen, originally scheduled to fly in April, now is training with the two astronauts slated for the October mission.

“He never gave up hope. The guy’s a bulldog,” Cohen said.

Olsen, who holds advanced degrees in physics and materials science, plans to bring along several of his company’s state-of-the-art infrared cameras to do science experiments. He previously said he hopes his experiments will prove the value of the cameras in gathering data in space and will help scientists studying distant stars, chemical reactions such as ozone formation in the atmosphere, and the health of agricultural crops.

Space Adventures, which recently opened an office in Tokyo, brokers space tourist trips with the cash-strapped Russian space program. The company previously arranged space flights for American Dennis Tito and South African Mark Shuttleworth.

All potential space tourists must train in mock-ups of the Soyuz and of the space station and must undergo physical conditioning, scientific lessons and language training.

Olsen is in excellent physical condition, according to Tearne. He works out regularly with a trainer, is an avid ballroom dancer and otherwise stays physically active.

Tearne would not disclose Olsen’s medical problem, calling it a private matter, but said it was not life-threatening. Cohen said medical tests Russian doctors performed on Olsen last year apparently indicated something unusual _ Cohen didn’t know what specifically _ but it was gone on a recent follow-up test. Cohen said Olsen’s U.S. doctors said he did not have any health problems.

“I guess it was a matter of understandable hypersensitivity” by the Russians, Cohen said.


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