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Cosmic tours fail to blast off

A Beijing-Based travel agency promoting two "space tours" has failed to receive any applicants, and perhaps its out-of-this-world prices are to blame.


A US$20 million holiday package will take you into space for several days with astronauts, according to the Youth Daily.


The other option is an 88,888-yuan (US$13,000) tour involving a trip to the NASA headquarters in the United States. There travelers can experience weightlessness in a zero-gravity capsule.


The travel agency's three outlets in Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin have not received a single inquiry about the trips, an official with the travel agency told the newspaper.

"We are the first agency on the Chinese mainland to handle outer-space tourism projects," he told the newspaper.


"In terms of the US$20 million space trip, applicants must wait for a time when a spacecraft is scheduled to blast off," he said. "This special tour, which used to be promoted only in foreign countries, is now open to domestic travelers."


So far, six tourists have visited outer-space since US millionaire Dennis Tito paid US$20 million to become the first, making an orbital flight in 2001. These trips have cost between US$100,000 and US$20 million.


According to the newspaper, a poll showed 7 percent of wealthy Americans would pay US$20 million for a two-week orbital flight. Nineteen percent of wealthy Americans said they would pay US$100,000 for a 15-minute sub-orbital flight.


(Shanghai Daily December 18, 2008)