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The Billionauts are Back!

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
January 12, 2011
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The Soyuz -- soon to fly again with billionauts aboard!

Pop the corks! Light up those Cubans with $100 bills! And order that Beluga caviar by the ton!

Yes, prospective billionauts around the world are celebrating today. They will soon have rides into orbit, thanks to a new deal between the Russians and an American space tourism company:

Space Adventures, the only company that has provided human space mission opportunities to the world marketplace, announced today the conclusion of an agreement with the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation (FSA) and Rocket Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energia) to commercially offer three seats on the Soyuz spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS), beginning in 2013.

These seats will be made available through the increase of Soyuz production, from four to five spacecraft per year. Each flight will be short duration, approximately 10 days, and will contribute to the increase of launch capacity to the ISS.

So, who’s going to be flying? Google co-founder Sergey Brin has already put down a $5 million deposit on a flight. This is spare change for Brin, whose personal worth is an estimated $11 billion.

The Google co-founder, in fact, just purchased the 194-foot (59.2-meter) super yacht Senses from Kiwi businessman Sir Douglas Myers for a reported $46 million. The vessel features an 39-foot wide owner’s suite, five guest cabins, helipad, fitness center, jacuzzi, bar, and a luxurious interior finished by famous French designer Philippe Starck. The super yacht was previously available for charter at $259,000 – 280,000 per week.

Space Adventures says there is plenty of interest from others in Soyuz seats.

“Since Guy Laliberte’s mission, there has been an increase of interest by private individuals, organizations and commercial entities seeking ways to access the space station,” said Space Adventures Chairman Eric Anderson. “We have been speaking with these parties about science, education and multi-media programs and hope to make some major announcements in the coming year.”

Laliberte, who founded Cirque du Soleil, said that reported $35 million he spent for a ticket paid itself back many fold in publicity. My guess is that if Google adds some “science, education and multi-media programs” to accompany the flight, this will be an investment well worth making.

Space Adventures isn’t saying how much tickets will cost, but prices have been rising steadily since Dennis Tito paid $20 million (or possibly $12 million) to become the first space tourist almost 10 years ago. My guess is that tickets are probably now up in the $45-50 million range, which is roughly what a super yacht costs these days.

One response to “The Billionauts are Back!”

  1. amalie says:

    And here is total luxury, yacht and all.

    Maybe the billionaut phenomena indeed represents some complimentary aspect to the stringent NASA funding coinage.

    But the ultra wealthy are not my cup of tea anyway, not even for caviar and champagne.

    The way forward is much more serious than even such celebrities might imagine.. it will take major intergovernmental initiative to get us off the ground… out of the cradle even.

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