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First Russian space tourist to fly in 2009

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian spacecraft will deliver the first Russian space tourist to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2009, the head of the national space agency Roskosmos said on Friday.

Of the five space tourists who have paid the approximately $25 million for similar trips, four were U.S. citizens and one was from South Africa.

Anatoly Perminov told reporters negotiations with the space tourist were under way, but refused to give his name.

“All I can say is that it’s a serious, respectable person, a businessman and politician. Also young,” he said.

Space tourism has so far been an extreme niche market for wealthy foreigners at Roskosmos.

But the cash-strapped agency has seemingly made the most of the publicity generated by sending intensely-trained amateurs aboard its Soyuz TMA rockets from a launch pad Russia rents in Kazakhstan to link up with the ISS.

In April U.S. space tourist Charles Simonyi arrived with a hamper of gourmet food from no less than U.S. lifestyle guru Martha Stewart to celebrate Russian Cosmonaut’s Day aboard the ISS during his 10-day trip.