Who Was The First Space Tourist?
Answer: Dennis Tito
On April 28, 2001, Russian spacecraft Soyuz TM-32 left the launchpad on what would have been an otherwise routine journey to the International Space Station. Routine except for the fact that the three man crew included the first ever space tourist.
Despite strong opposition from NASA, Dennis Tito launched with the crew of Soyuz TM-32. Tito, a wealthy Italian-American engineer turned entrepreneur, was not the first civilian to enjoy a spaceflight–in the 1980s, for example, Senator Jake Garn and Representative Bill Nelson both enjoyed a trip into space as part of NASA’s bid to win congressmen over to the program–but he was the first to get there without invitation through a special program and through the purchasing power of a hefty check.
How hefty of a check? Tito paid 20 million dollars to the Russian space program to enjoy an 8 day trip and a stay aboard the International Space Station. Six people have followed in his foot steps, also using the Russian space program as a vehicle for their travels, with an average bill of 29 million dollars per trip. Carrying moonbeams home in a jar, it would seem, doesn’t come cheap.