K O R O L Y O V, Russia, May 1, 2001 -- U.S. space touristDennis Tito, clearly delighted with his stay on theInternational Space Station, pledged today to encourageothers to follow his example and said one need not be"superhuman" to go into space.
Tito, who has reportedly paid $20 million for his week-longjourney, arrived aboard the station on Monday with two Russiancosmonauts after their Soyuz capsule docked with the complex.Television pictures showed him beaming as he floatedweightlessly through the cabin of the station's Russian segment.
Tito told a news conference staged by mission controloutside Moscow that he felt fine and that crew members weretreating him well. He promised to do what he could to bringother enthusiasts aboard despite the prohibitive price tag.
Tito Encourages Others
"If I have anything to say about it, I will do my best tocommunicate to people how great an experience this is. One doesnot have to be superhuman to adapt to space," he said.
"It's very do-able. Unfortunately, it's very expensive atthis point, but there are others who can afford this and I wouldlike to encourage it. That's what I hope to accomplish."
He described the flight as "everything and well beyond whatI would have expected. It's time for me to help other people toachieve their dreams."
Tito's fare-paying ride prompted a dispute between Russianspace officials, keen to collect his fee, and the U.S. spaceagency NASA, which said the $95 billion space station was noplace for an amateur with no space experience.
But Tito, wearing gray pants and a blue T-shirt used byRussian cosmonauts, told reporters he had already visited theU.S. sector of the station despite NASA's insistence that he beescorted when venturing into it.
"I ended up seeing the American segment probably within anhour of arriving at the station," the 60-year-old Californiamillionaire said.
U.S. crew members James Voss and Susan Helms, he said, had"gone out of their way to show me around, to give me some safetydrills. They have done a great job."
Russian crew members, including ISS commander Yuri Usachevas well as Yuri Baturin and Talgat Musabayev, launched aboardSoyuz with Tito at the weekend, had become "very close friends."
Easier Than Sailing a Rough Ocean
Tito said suggestions that he would fall victim to motionsickness, as occurs with even experienced space travelers, hadbeen exaggerated. He had felt slightly ill during his firsthours aboard the station, but recovered quickly.
"My expectations originally were that things would be notthat comfortable, like sailing on a rough ocean," he said.
"But it turned out it's very comfortable. I feel great. Ihave no feeling of space sickness. My face is a little puffy asare those of my crew members, because usually the adaptationcauses the blood to go to your head from the rest of your body.
Russian officials dismissed U.S. objections to Tito's tripas political in nature and see it as a precedent for making upfor post-Soviet shortfalls in funding.
Yuri Semyonov, president of Energiya, the Russian companythat builds and flies Moscow's spaceships told reporters thisweek Tito would promote commercial projects. Officials said theywould try to eliminate disputes over qualifications that causedfriction with their U.S. partners.
The space station is jointly owned by the United States,Russia, Canada, Japan and European countries.
Washington is footing most of the cost, but Moscow — withunrivalled space station experience gained from 15 years flyingthe Mir complex ditched in the Pacific Ocean last month — hasdesigned and built many of the key parts.