Space tourists should be kept away from astronauts, says Russian chief

Demand for joyrides expected to grow as flights opened up to wealthy

Star Trek actor William Shatner poses with Blue Origin personnel in suborbital flight. Blue Origin / Reuters
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Space tourists could “distract crews and cause disruptions” on orbital stations, Russia's space chief has said.

Roscosmos director general Dmitry Rogozin said a dedicated area on space stations for such tourists was required to minimise disruption to proper missions.

He said the Russian space agency would be adding a module for tourists to the next station it develops.

He spoke at a press conference on the opening day of the International Astronautical Congress in Dubai on Monday. His comments came as Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX take more VIP tourists into orbit.

The last thing the crew needs is a distraction from their professional duties and that is what we need to think about
Dmitry Rogozin, Roscosmos

“On one hand, it is important to take non-professional astronauts ... to popularise space and add achievements to the economy,” he said.

“On the other hand – and this point is frequently being made by professionals – the space tourist may not be aware of what’s going around them, which may result in one of them doing something that may disrupt the mission.

“The last thing the crew needs is a distraction from their professional duties and that is what we need to think about.”

Space tourism is starting to take off, with the US leading the way. Russia is also stepping up its plans around developing a space tourism programme.

This month, a Russian actress and director travelled to the International Space Station to shoot a film.

The International Astronautical Congress is taking place at the Dubai World Trade Centre until Friday.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, toured the exhibition and was joined by the UAE’s four astronauts.

He received a quick brief on the Hakuto-R lander that will deliver the UAE’s Rashid rover to the Moon's surface next year.

A replica of the lander, built by private Japanese company iSpace, was on display at the event.

Heads of other space agencies, including those from the US, Japan, India, Canada and Europe, also provided updates of their respective national space programmes.

Pam Melroy, deputy administrator at Nasa, said the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope remained on schedule for December.

It is the world’s most advanced telescope and took 20 years to complete.

After years of delays, a launch date of December 18 was finalised and the telescope was delivered to the launch site at the French Guiana Space Centre in South America.

“I'm also very excited about the James Webb Space Telescope. I felt like I held my breath for many days waiting for the telescope to recently be delivered to French Guiana,” Ms Melroy said.

“It’s undergoing checking right now but everything looks good for a launch later in December.

“I think it's going to be incredible because we're going to be looking back 13.5 billion years, into a part of the history of the cosmos that we know very little about – the formation of stars and galaxies. I can't wait to see what we're going to find out.”

Private space companies are strongly represented at the congress.

Spartan Space, a French start-up, was displaying an inflatable lunar habitat.

Called Euro Hab, the habitat could host up to four astronauts and is designed to offer a secondary shelter while their spacecraft is on the lunar surface.

“Our goal is that it can be used as a safe haven if the primary habitat is failing,” Mohamed Makthoum, from Spartan Space, told The National.

“It would act like a shelter. For the lunar habitat like the Apollo era, the astronaut could only explore to a certain degree before the light support system on their suit failed, so they would have to come back again.

“The purpose of this habitat is that you put something at the edge of their limit and the astronaut could explore without worries.”

The balloon will be installed on the lander and inflate automatically once the command is sent.

Multiple airlocks will keep lunar dust out, with solar panels on the outside to recharge the habitat.

Updated: October 25, 2021, 5:14 PM