Space flight participant

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Space flight participant (Russian: участник космического полёта, translit. uchastnik kosmicheskogo polyota) is the term used by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA),[1] the Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA),[citation needed] and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)[2] for people who travel into space, but who are not professional astronauts.

While the term gained new prominence with the rise of space tourism, it has also been used for participants in programs like NASA's Teacher in Space and astronauts designated by inter-government agreements like the Angkasawan program and the Korean Astronaut Program.

Other terms used for space travelers who are not career astronauts include NASA's Payload Specialist and the RKA's Researcher-Cosmonaut.


The Soviet Interkosmos program included participants selected from Warsaw Pact members and later from allies of the USSR and non-aligned countries. Most of these people received full training for their missions and were treated as equals, but especially after the Mir program began, were generally given shorter flights than Soviet cosmonauts. The European Space Agency took advantage of the program as well.

The United States Space Shuttle program included Payload Specialist positions which were usually filled by representatives of companies or institutions managing a specific payload on that mission. These individuals did not receive the same level of training as career NASA astronauts and were not employed by NASA, so they were essentially private astronauts.

In the early days of the Shuttle program, NASA was also eager to prove its capability to Congressional sponsors, and Senator Jake Garn and (then-Representative, later Senator) Bill Nelson were both given opportunities to fly on a Shuttle mission.

As the Shuttle program expanded, NASA developed the Space Flight Participant Program, where civilians, with an emphasis on creative people, would be sent into space to increase public awareness of NASA's mission. The initial goal was that two or three shuttle missions a year would include a civilian participant.[3] The first of these would be the Teacher in Space Project, which would combine publicity and educational opportunities for NASA. Christa McAuliffe would have been the first Teacher in Space, but she was killed in the Challenger disaster and the program was canceled. At the time of the Challenger disaster, NASA was planning to include a Journalist in Space on a mission scheduled to launch in September 1986. The program continued briefly, with the initial candidate pool being narrowed to 100 in March and 40 in April before being postponed indefinitely in July.[4][5] Walter Cronkite and Miles O'Brien were considered front-runners.[6][7][8]

With the realities of the post-perestroika economy in Russia, its space industry was especially starved for cash. The Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) offered to pay for one of its reporters to fly on a mission. For $28 million, Toyohiro Akiyama, was flown in 1990 to Mir with the eighth crew and returned a week later with the seventh crew. Akiyama gave a daily television broadcast from orbit and also performed scientific experiments for Russian and Japanese companies.

Since then, the Russian Federal Space Agency has also sold seats to a consortium of British companies for Project Juno, to seven self-funded space tourists, to the Malaysian government as part of a contract to sell military planes, and to the South Korean government as part of the Korean Astronaut Program.

List of space flight participants[edit]

Name Nationality Program/Sponsor Flight Date Comments
Dennis Tito  United States Self-funded space tourist Soyuz TM-32 / Soyuz TM-31 April 28 - May 6, 2001 First space tourist
Mark Shuttleworth  South Africa Self-funded space tourist Soyuz TM-34 / Soyuz TM-33 April 25 - May 5, 2002 Shuttleworth was the first person with South African citizenship to fly in space.
Gregory Olsen  United States Self-funded space tourist Soyuz TMA-7 / Soyuz TMA-6 October 1–11, 2005
Anousheh Ansari  Iran /
 United States
Self-funded space tourist Soyuz TMA-9 / Soyuz TMA-8 September 18–29, 2006 Trained as back-up to Enomoto. Was the first person with Iranian citizenship to fly in space.
Charles Simonyi  Hungary /
 United States
Self-funded space tourist Soyuz TMA-10 / Soyuz TMA-9 April 7–21, 2007
Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor  Malaysia Angkasawan program Soyuz TMA-11 / Soyuz TMA-10 10–21 October 2007 Back-up was Faiz Khaleed.
Yi So-yeon  South Korea Korean Astronaut Program Soyuz TMA-12 / Soyuz TMA-11 8–19 April 2008 Back-up was Ko San.
Richard Garriott  United States Self-funded space tourist Soyuz TMA-13 / Soyuz TMA-12 12 October 2008 - 23 October 2008 Back-up was Nik Halik.[9][10]
Charles Simonyi  Hungary /
 United States
Self-funded space tourist Soyuz TMA-14 / Soyuz TMA-13 26 March 2009 - 8 April 2009 Backup was Esther Dyson.[11] Simonyi was the first repeat space tourist.
Guy Laliberté  Canada Self-funded space tourist Soyuz TMA-16 / Soyuz TMA-14 30 September 2009 - 11 October 2009 First Canadian space tourist.[12] Backup was Barbara Barrett[13]
Failed attempts
Christa McAuliffe[14]  United States Teacher in Space Project STS-51-L 28 January 1986 Killed alongside six fellow crew members in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Back-up was Barbara Morgan, who was selected in 1998 to train as a Mission Specialist. Morgan finally flew to space aboard STS-118 in 2007, but as a "teacher-turned-astronaut", not a space flight participant.
Lance Bass  United States Corporate-funded space tourist Completed training but seat on Soyuz TMA-1 in 2002 was cancelled after funding fell through.
Daisuke Enomoto  Japan Self-funded space tourist Expected to fly on Soyuz TMA-9 in September 2006, but was grounded for medical reasons and seat was given to Ansari.
Sarah Brightman  United Kingdom Self-funded space tourist Soyuz TMA-18M / Soyuz TMA-16M Scheduled for 1 September 2015 - 11 September 2015[15] Space Adventures announced on Oct. 10, 2012, that Sarah Brightman would fly to the International Space Station on an upcoming Soyuz flight. Backup was Satoshi Takamatsu.[16] She subsequently pulled out of the flight.[17]
Vladimir Gruzdev  Russia Political party-sponsored trip Was expected to fly in 2009. The United Russia political party was expected to pay the estimated $25 million for the flight from the party funds.[18]
Hazza Al Mansouri  UAE Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre Soyuz MS-12/Soyuz MS-10 Was expected to launch on Soyuz MS-12 and land on Soyuz MS-10, mission was scrubbed after Soyuz MS-10 aborted during launch, mission is now shceduled to take place sometime before 2020.

All eight space tourism trips went to and from the International Space Station on Soyuz spacecraft and were arranged through the space tourism company, Space Adventures.[19]

Other missions[edit]

While not labeled as "space flight participants", the following people participated in spaceflight missions under the auspices of special programs outside the professional astronaut corps.

Name Nationality Program/Sponsor Flight Date Comments
Jake Garn  United States US Government STS-51-D 12–19 April 1985 To demonstrate the capabilities of the Space Shuttle, NASA offered a seat to Garn, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.[20]
Bill Nelson  United States US Government STS-61-C 12–18 January 1986 NASA also provided a seat to Nelson, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.[21] He was originally scheduled to be aboard STS-51-L.
Edward C. Aldridge, Jr.  United States US Government STS-62-A NASA assigned a seat to Aldridge, the Secretary of the Air Force, on mission STS-62-A, the first Shuttle mission scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base.[22] After the Challenger disaster, the mission was cancelled and Aldridge never flew.
Toyohiro Akiyama  Japan Tokyo Broadcasting System Soyuz TM-11 / Soyuz TM-10 2–10 December 1990 As an employee of TBS, Akiyama could be considered the first space business traveler.
Helen Sharman  United Kingdom Project Juno Soyuz TM-12 / Soyuz TM-11 18–26 May 1991 Through Project Juno, a consortium of British companies partially funded a seat on a Soyuz flight to Mir (the Soviet Union covered the rest of the cost) in order to put the first Briton into space.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ladwig, Alan (October 1, 1985). "The Space Flight Participant Program - Taking the teacher and classroom into space". NASA Technical Reports Server. NASA. Retrieved July 10, 2015. document ID no. 19860031168.
  2. ^ FAA regulations, Commercial Space Transportation, 14 C.F.R. § 401.5
  3. ^ "The Space Flight Participant Program - Taking the teacher and classroom into space". NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS). NASA. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  4. ^ "Journalist in space candidates narrowed". Google News. Times Daily. 29 April 1986. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  5. ^ "Journalist-in-space program on hold". UPI. 15 July 1986. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  6. ^ Roger Rosenblatt (2001-06-24). "A Realm Where Age Doesn't Count". Time Magazine / CNN. Retrieved September 12, 2007.
  7. ^ "May fly sometime:". Space Today Online. 2005. Retrieved September 12, 2007.
  8. ^ "Candidates for the "Journalist in Space Program"". Space Facts. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  9. ^ Tariq Malik (2008). "'Thrillionaire' Signs on as Backup Space Tourist". Archived from the original on February 2, 2008. Retrieved January 28, 2008.
  10. ^, US game designer blasts into space with DNA cargo Archived October 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "U.S. Billionaire to Make Second Private Spaceflight". Archived from the original on October 5, 2008. Retrieved September 30, 2008.
  12. ^ "Acrobat to Be Next Space Tourist". Archived from the original on June 13, 2009. Retrieved June 4, 2009.
  13. ^ "Жена главы компании Intel готовится стать космонавтом" (in Russian). Archived from the original on February 14, 2012. Retrieved June 8, 2009.
  14. ^ "Payload Specialist Astronauts". Retrieved 2016-01-21.
  15. ^ "Soyuz 44 Crew Profiles". 2015-02-09. Retrieved 2015-03-07.
  16. ^ "Space Adventures Announces that Satoshi Takamatsu Will Begin Orbital Spaceflight Training in Star City, Russia". Space Adventures, Ltd. 2015-01-07. Retrieved 2015-05-01.
  17. ^ Jeff Foust (22 June 2015). "Kazakh Cosmonaut To Take Brightman's Place On Soyuz Flight". Space News.
  18. ^ "First Russian space flight participant will not lift off until 2009". RIA Novosti. 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-28.
  19. ^ Kevin Bonsor (2007). "How Space Tourism Works". HowStuffWorks, Inc. Retrieved 2007-10-28.
  21. ^ "61-C". Retrieved 2016-01-21.
  22. ^ "Astronaut Biography: Edward Aldridge". Retrieved 2016-01-21.
  23. ^ "1991: Sharman becomes first Briton in space". BBC News. 1991-05-18. Retrieved 2010-05-23.

External links[edit]

  • Charles in Space Charles Simonyi's blog and video blog about his trip to the ISS.