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Tourist and Multimillionaire Tito Reaches Space Station on Monday

By Peter Baker
THE WASHINGTON POST

Korolyov, Russia

American multimillionaire Dennis Tito floated out of a Russian capsule through a tight airlock and into the International Space Station on Monday, beginning his $20 million sight-seeing trip in the world’s most distinctive vacation resort.

Like many first-time spacefarers, the 60-year-old investment fund manager from Los Angeles suffered from nausea and vomited during the two days it took to get to the station. But by the time he arrived, Tito looked hale and hearty again, displaying far more enthusiasm than he did when his Russian rocket took off Saturday.

“I don’t know about this adaptation that they’re talking about,” he said from space, grinning. “I’m already adapted. I love space!”

Talgat Musabayev, commander of the Russian spacecraft that delivered Tito, testified that history’s first paying space tourist was faring well. “He looks younger, maybe 10 years younger now.”

Tito’s flight has attracted worldwide attention to the issue of space commercialization and fostered bitter tensions between the Russians and Americans over the right to use the international station as a draw for space tourism.

Although NASA complained that it was improper and possibly unsafe to unilaterally send a dilettante to the station while it was still being built, the Russians maintained that wealthy customers such as Tito will provide desperately needed cash to hold up their end of the project.

The Soyuz TM-32 carrying Tito, Musabayev and cosmonaut Yuri Baturin docked with the space station 240 miles above the planet without a hitch and on schedule at 3:57 a.m. EDT. An hour and a half later, the hatch opened and the passengers disembarked, Tito in the middle, easing through with the help of a couple crew members who guided his weightless frame into the station.

For the next six days, he will be a passenger with certain restrictions.