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Space Tourist Dispute Goes On

NASA may ask Russia for monetary compensation for disruptions at the International Space Station caused by space tourist Dennis Tito. Russian officials dispute the idea that there is a problem.

NASA administrator Daniel Goldin told a House subcommittee Wednesday that Dennis Tito, the California tycoon who ignored the agency's recommendations and paid the Russians for the opportunity to go into space, has caused anxiety among space workers who overseeing the mission's safety.

"The current situation has put an incredible stress on the men and women of NASA," Goldin said. "Mr. Tito does not realize the efforts of thousands of people, United States and Russian, who are working to protect his safety and the safety of everyone else."

NASA and other partners in the space station objected to Tito's space flight, claiming that the Californian was not properly trained and that the station was not ready for amateur space trippers.

Russian officials have denied the allegations, saying Tito was spending his time making videos and staying out of the way.

"Tito's presence, according to our information, has in no way harmed the work of either the permanent or visiting crew," said Viktor Blagov, deputy head of Russia's mission control. "Everyone is getting on with their work and there have been no complaints from on board."

The U.S. space agency objected to Russia's selling tourist trips to the station without the agreement of the other space station partners. An agreement was reached, but Goldin said it may be costly for the Russians.

"In our agreement that we worked out with the Russians we will do an assessment and … get a reimbursement," he said.

Blagov said Thursday that NASA has yet to ask Russia to pay for any extra costs connected with Tito. He also said that Moscow would continue to send tourists into orbit if the money can help support the country's space program.

In a speech Tuesday, retired senator and astronaut John Glenn said the time is not right for space tourism. Glenn said he did not favor Tito visiting the space station because he believes only researchers should go into space. "The time for space tourism should still be off in the future," he said.

"It goes well beyond anything that I have ever dreamed," Tito said on Tuesday. "Living in space is like having a different life, living in a different world."

"It is so spectacular, it is so rewarding," he said. "I think that professional astronauts maybe, circulating among themselves, take this for granted. But I will tell you, there is nothing like this as an experience."

He said he hopes the first space tourist won't be the last.

"Unfortunately, it's very expensive at this point, but there are others who can afford it and I would like to encourage it," Tito said.

He was given a tour of the American segment of the 16-nation station within an hour of his arrival and "everyone has been fantastic," Tito said.

"(American astronauts) Jim Voss ad Susan Helms have just gone out of their way to show me around, give me some safety drills," he added.

Tito initially signed an agreement with a company seeking private sources of money to keep Russia's Mir space station in orbit, but his destination was switched to the ISS when Russia ditched Mir earlier this year.

Tito spent six days aboard the space station, most of it aboard the Russian-made Zvezda module, before returning to Earth Sunday. He does not expect to go back into space.

"It's time for me to help other people achieve their dreams," he said, without elaborating.

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