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.


On-orbit Servicing Company Skycorp Signs Letter of Intent with Satellite Operator

skycorplogoSkycorp has signed a letter of intent with an undisclosed satellite operator for on-orbit servicing designed to extend the life of spacecraft , CEO Dennis Wingo announced at the NewSpace 2013 conference last week.

Wingo also announced the Skycorp Spacecraft Life Extension System (SLES), a servicing spacecraft designed to extend the life of a geosynchronous satellite by 10 years for one-third the cost of building and launching a replacement.

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 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.