Space tourists go to Singapore, and beyond

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Astronauts may be about to become an everyday sight in Singapore. The American company that arranged for multimillionaire tourists to hitch a ride into space on Russian rockets is planning to turn the island state into the world's main centre for space tourism.

The Space Adventures company wants to set up its own launchpad and astronaut training centre on the island. It appears that the plans are part of a schemethat could bring the price of space flight within the reach of more people.

A spokeswoman for Space Adventures, Stacey Tearne, yesterday confirmed a report in Singapore's Straits Times that the company is planning to set up a launchpad and training centre, but refused to give any further details.

But the plans may be connected to a new service the company is advertising on its website. Space Adventures currently charges $20m (£11.5m) per passenger to arrange a ride into orbit on a Russian spacecraft. But it says the new service will be a comparative snip at $102,000 (£59,000) a head.

The reason it's so much cheaper is because the service will use a new type of spacecraft currently in development that can fly 60 miles above the Earth's surface - high enough to leave the atmosphere and see the classic view of Earth from space - but cannot go fast enough to reach orbit.

The price for the new flights will include four days of intensive training - rather less demanding than the 180 days of training space tourists have been required to undergo before blasting off on a Russian spacecraft.

Space Adventures arranged the journeys of the world's first three space tourists, Dennis Tito and Greg Olsen from the US and Mark Shuttleworth from South Africa.