A Look Back at Space Tourism Version 1.0 as New Gaggle of Millionauts Prepares to Fly

The first space tourist, Dennis Tito, poses with Soyuz TM-32 crew mates Talgat Musabayev, and Yuri Baturin in 2001. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

For eight years, they thundered aloft in cramped Russian spacecraft from a former Soviet spaceport in Kazakhstan, battling bureaucracy and gravity to blaze a trail across the heavens and redefine what it meant to be a space traveler. No longer would access to orbit be limited to highly trained astronauts chosen on merit and working on behalf of their nations; instead, space would be open to any sufficiently healthy people with enough money and moxie to qualify.


SFF Parties as Tax Evading Benefactor Walt Anderson Ends Prison Term

Mircorp_logoWith it being Saturday already back on the East Coast, former MirCorp CEO and convicted tax evader Walt Anderson is now a free man. And the Space Frontier Foundation is partying like its 1999.

Anderson, whose company MirCorp leased the Russian space station Mir during that final year of the 20th century, has been under house arrest at his parents home in Virginia since July as part of a nearly 8-year prison term in what the federal government has called the largest individual tax evasion case in history. He served most of the term in a federal prison in New Jersey.

The Space Frontier Foundation — which benefited from Anderson’s financial largess prior to his stay in the Big House — is having a “Flaming Mir” party in his honor on Saturday night at a restaurant in McLean, Virginia. The foundation is paying for drinks, light appetizers and desserts only, and it recommends attendees eat dinner before arriving. The RSVP email is [email protected]


Walt Anderson Planning Cloud Computing Service

MirCorp founder Walt Anderson is working on a cloud computing start-up as he approaches the end of a nearly 8-year prison term for tax evasion, according to a message posted on the Justice for Walt website.

I am now back in the real world. I am currently on “home detention” at my parent’s homne [sic] in Virginia. I will be completely done with this ordeal on December 29, 2012. Unil [sic] December 29, 2012 I will not be able to travel outside the Washington DC area, but I have lots of things to work on here for now.


MirCorp Founder Walt Anderson to Appear on The Space Show

Friday’s guest on The Space Show will be Walt Anderson, who once leased the Russian space station Mir and who is nearing the end of an eight-year prison term in the largest individual tax evasion case in U.S. history.Anderson will talk about his plans for a cloud computing start-up and various entrepreneurial space plans.

Here’s the full schedule:

1. Monday, October 1,, 2012, 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): RAND SIMBERG returns to discuss his latest project from Kickstarter addressing problems with risk averseness in human spaceflight.

2. Tuesday, October 2 , 2012, 7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT): JOHN POWELL of JP Aerospace returns with updates and new information.

3. Friday, October 5, 2012, 9:30-11 AM PDT (11:30- 1 PM CDT, 12:30PM-2:00 PM EDT) WALT ANDERSON is back to tell us about his new business start-up, his entrepreneurial space industry plans, and more.

4. Sunday, October 7, 2012, 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT). OPEN LINES returns for this program. All space topics welcome. New callers are welcome.

Jeff Manber: Hire Capt. Kirk as Space Adventures’ Spokesman

Jeff Manber isn’t very impressed with Space Adventures’ plan to send humans around the moon. He’s skeptical about whether the company has actually sold a $150 million ticket, thinks their promo video has crappy production values, and says they should hire James Tiberius Priceline (William Shatner) as a spokesman. He also questions the wisdom of spending $150 million to be a guinea pig on Russia’s first ever lunar human flight. (A good question, actually.)


Epic Falls: Stadd Washes Dishes as Anderson Neuters Cats

The late great Mir space station.
The late great Mir space station - now in pieces at the bottom of the Pacific.

A couple of high-flying space figures – former NASA chief of staff Courtney Stadd and MirCorp founder Walt Anderson – have fallen on decidedly hard times after running afoul of the law. They now find themselves doing work normally done by working class stiffs.


Walt Anderson Talks From Prison as “Orphans” Screens in DC

The late great Mir space station.
The late great Mir space station.

This just in from director Michael Potter:

“Orphans of Apollo” to Screen @ ThrillSpy International Film Festival
Goethe Theater
Washington D.C.
Friday October 9th, 3 p.m.

The Space Show
Dr. David Livingston’s taped interviews with MirCorp CEO Walt Anderson from inside the Fairton Correctional Facility in New Jersey.
Sunday, October 11, 12-1:30 PM PDT

MirCorp Mastermind Anderson: Still in Jail, Still Fighting the Revenuers


Over the last six months, there have been several new legal developments in the case of space commercialization pioneer Walt Anderson, who is serving a 9-year sentence for tax fraud at a federal prison in New Jersey. The legal developments have renewed call from Anderson’s vocal supporters that the entrepreneur is innocent and should be released from prison.


Orphans of Apollo Nominated for Tech Award

This just in from director Michael Potter:

“Orphans of Apollo” has been nominated for the World Technology Awards in the Entertainment category. The awards ceremony will be held in July in New York City.

The next screening of Mr. Potter’s documentary about MirCorp is scheduled for the San Diego Air & Space Museum on Saturday, May 9.

Orphans of Anderson: Film Examines the Fall of Mir and a Tech Mogul

There are two especially dangerous types of people in the world: those with nothing to lose, and those with everything to lose. The former is desperate and, having little at stake, is often willing to do almost anything to survive. The latter often feels like he can do anything. This attitude can propel them to great heights – and to spectacular falls.

The themes of desperation and hubris run through Michael Potter’s film, Orphans of Apollo. The fascinating documentary recounts the briefly successful – but ultimately failed – effort to privatize the Russian space station Mir at the turn of the century. The film – which is now available on DVD and will screen at the Sacramento International Film Festival on March 30 – also chronicles the fall of early space entrepreneur Walt Anderson.


As Goes Silicon Valley, So Goes NewSpace?

Jeff Foust takes a look what effects the global financial crisis could have on commercial space over at The Space Review. He asked a few experts at Space Investment Summit 5, which was held last week in Los Angeles. They had some interesting perspectives.

Further north, the Silicon Valley is being roiled by a series of layoffs, the largest of which (as of early Tuesday morning) was eBay’s decision to slash 1,600 jobs. Other tech companies large and small have announced (or will soon announce) layoffs. How this will affect space efforts is an interesting question.


New Documentary, Orphans of Apollo, Chronicles Mir Effort

A new documentary is out that chronicles efforts to commercialize the Mir space station. “Orphans of Apollo: The Battle of the Mir & the New Space Revolution,” a film by Michael Potter, recounts efforts by MirCorp during the 1990’s to jump start the space tourism industry. Producers invite you to:

“Join 5 brothers in arms, board a private Gulf Stream jet and fly to Russia and watch them at the negotiating table as they close out the most remarkable business deal of the final frontier. Listen to the key players of the management team struggle with issues of branding, finance, technology and engaging in the ultimate slug fest with the most powerful governments in the world. Can these dreamers replace the bureaucratic and government vision of space with a radically new vision of individuals and private enterprise developing space for all of mankind? Have they found the final frontier?

Yes, they venture into space in order to make billions, but they also go to space with the deep conviction, vision and idealism to save Earth itself. Resources captured in space and sent back to Earth have the potential of solving the entire planet’s energy problems.”

You can learn more about the film and view a trailer at the film’s official website. There is also a trailer on the site.