Blog: The 20th Anniversary of Private Spaceflight


This mission was to be groundbreaking – the first time that a self-funded civilian was to launch to space. Dennis was to visit the International Space Station that was brand new and still under construction. When Eric first approached the Russians with the idea of flying a non-professional to space they said that no one would pay the price to fly. Eric told them that he already had a client. The officials at Roscosmos were astonished.

Now, you have to remember, no one had an idea of the value of spaceflight. No market studies had ever been published. SpaceShipOne was years away from flight and SpaceX wasn’t even founded yet. Commercial spaceflight, let alone space tourism, was just in the ether. But this was a window of opportunity — a chance to make something otherwise impossible real. And Eric just set US$20 million dollars as the price of a ticket to launch to orbital space. This mission would create an entirely new marketplace if Dennis and Eric could jump through enough hoops to get to the launch pad.

The Russians developed the medical and training guidelines that Dennis would have to follow to be certified to launch on a Soyuz. A month before Dennis’ planned launch, he and his Russian crew traveled to the NASA Johnson Space Center to be trained on the U.S. segment of the space station.