Friday, April 20, 2001
Space officials from the U.S., Russia, and other ISS partnering
nations have scheduled a teleconference today to resolve what has become known
as "The Tito Issue."
At the Kennedy Space Center, Design News Senior Editor Rick
DeMeis interviewed Don Peterson, an astronaut on the STS-6, on the upcoming
April 30 launch of a Soyuz rocket carrying Dennis Tito, soon to be the world's
first space tourist. "I think he will [be allowed to fly]," said Peterson. "We
don't have any legal right to tell the Russians who to fly."
NASA and other partnering space agencies object to Russia's
acceptance of $20 million from Tito for him to join two Russian cosmonauts to
the space station Alpha. Commenting on safety concerns for the crew and space
station, Peterson added, "The shuttle isn't a passenger vehicle. It's not
completely safe, like airline operations."
In the past, he continued, "I didn't think it was a good idea to
fly a senator, congressman, and teacher, but the precedence has been set," he
said. "He's no more dangerous than other [civilians]."