MOSCOW (AFP) - The Russian space agency has sealed a deal with a private investor to build a Soyuz spacecraft specially for tourist hire and operational in 2011, a statement said Wednesday.
"We have concluded an agreement with an investor to begin financing such a Soyuz vessel with an anticipated launch date of 2011," the Roskosmos website stated.
The craft, piloted by a professional astronaut, is designed to carry two so-called space adventurers.
Quizzed by AFP, a Roskosmos spokesman refused to identify the investor despite the agency having signed a deal in June with private American company Space Adventures for a commercial flight to the International Space Station.
Set up in 2001, Space Adventures has already sent five tourists into space on board a Soyuz.
The firm has been in negotiations with Roskosmos to rent the third seat on board a ship which regularly ferries Russian and American astronauts to the ISS.
American Dennis Tito, South African Mark Shuttleworth, Greg Olsen of the United States, Iranian-born Anousheh Ansari and Hungarian-born Charles Simonyi are the five who have each paid up to 25 million dollars (16 million euros) for the thrill of a lifetime.
The next independent space traveller is Richard Garriott, an American electronic games entrepreneur and son of former astronaut Owen Garriott. His flight is due to take off in October
No man was ever wise by chance..