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Amateur astronaut to start training for second space mission

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Spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi (middle) poses for a photo aboard ISS. NASA photo

MOSCOW (BNS): Hungarian-born Charles Simonyi, who is the fifth space tourist, may soon become the world's first amateur astronaut with two space missions.

Russian Cosmonaut Training Center spokesman Sergei Tafrov said that Simonyi's training would begin at Zvezdny Gorodok outside of Moscow soon after the New Year holidays.

Russian news agency Itar-Tass quoted Tafrov as saying that 60-year-old Simonyi had passed a medical checkup and departed to America, his home country, and his training would begin in the middle of January.

Head of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medical and Biological Problems department for medical selection of prospective astronauts Prof. Yuri Voronkov told Itar-Tass that the main medical commission said on December 19 last that Simonyi might start his training.

"The American businessman has passed a test of the medical commission of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems and the Russian Cosmonaut Training Center. He has been permitted to train on condition of another medical checkup at our institute," Voronkov told Itar-Tass.

Meanwhile, the news agency said that Space Adventures, the company that has been selecting space tourists by contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency since 1999, said that Simonyi might take the third seat in the Soyuz TMA-14 manned spaceship in March 2009.

"Thus, the 60-year-old may hit a record by the number of amateur space flights and the amount of funds spent on his space hobby. He may also become the last space tourist," the agency said. Earlier, the Federal Space Agency Director Anatoly Perminov said that Russia would suspend space tourism within the next few years as all the seats in the yet to be launched Soyuz spaceships had been distributed amongst professional astronauts of Russia, the European Space Agency and NASA.

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