Russian supermarket mogul and politician Vladimir Gruzdev apparently will not be flying to the International Space Station next year, having been apparently outbid for a seat on the Soyuz vehicle by the government of Kazakhstan, RIA Novosti reports:
“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.”
Krasnov’s comments came as millionaut software developer and lightly trained spaceflight “participant” Richard Garriott arrived at ISS. Garriott’s main qualifications for the flight largely involved paying a $30 million fee.
But, never fear. Gruzdev, a member of Russia’s ruling party, United Russia, might be getting some help with his fund-raising effort, the news service reports:
“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.'”
I guess that’s an easy thing to do when your party has no viable opposition to run against. Why not send one of your own to space?