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Aspiring space tourist passes physical

Mark Shuttleworth
Mark Shuttleworth  

By Richard Stenger

(CNN) -- A South African dot-com millionaire has passed medical examinations necessary for a trip to the international space station, according to a Russian news service.

Mark Shuttleworth, 27, who has been preparing at the cosmonaut training center near Moscow for a trip to space station Alpha, hopes to become the second paying tourist in space.

The Cape Town entrepreneur could make the flight on a Soyuz spacecraft as early as next year, Interfax reported this week. But Shuttleworth and the cash-strapped Russian Space Agency have yet to finalize a contract agreement.

Shuttleworth, who started an Internet security firm in his parent's garage and sold it four years later for a fortune, would follow in the weightless footsteps of U.S. billionaire Dennis Tito, 60, who paid up to $20 million to tag along with two cosmonauts for a weeklong trip to Alpha in May.

Space station Alpha
Space station Alpha  

The trip angered NASA, the primary space station partner, which argued that Tito's presence could endanger the Alpha crew. Since then, the two space agencies have been negotiating guidelines for future amateur visits to Alpha.

Along with Shuttleworth, two European Space Agency astronauts passed physical exams this week, giving them clearance to train at the cosmonaut center, Interfax said.

Roberto Vittori of Italy is the primary ESA candidate to travel with two cosmonauts to Alpha in April. Frank De Winne of Belgium is his alternate.

• Russian Aviation and Space Agency
• NASA Home Page
• NASA - International Space Station

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