Moscow (AFP)

The world is entering the era of space tourism, noted Friday the boss of Space Adventures, a player in this sector where three Western billionaires and the Russian space agency are in competition.

The American company headed by Tom Shelley and the Russian Roscosmos agency will send in early December and for 12 days aboard the International Space Station the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and his assistant Yozo Hirano.

Roscosmos and Space Adventures had already collaborated between 2001 and 2009 to send seven extremely wealthy entrepreneurs into space.

They are resuming this cooperation, at a time when American billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, as well as Briton Richard Branson, launched their own private space flights this year.

The portrait of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (D) and his brother Mark Bezos with a rocket from Blue Origin, in Van Horn, October 11, 2021 Patrick T. FALLON AFP / Archives

"2021 is truly a fascinating year for the private space flight industry," Space Adventures president Tom Shelley said in an interview with AFP.

"It's curious that everything is done at the same time".

According to him, the general public is now "more aware" of this dynamic.

“It's no longer just something that we talk about as something that will take place in the future: it's happening now,” he continues.

If Space Adventures has resumed its cooperation with Roscosmos, it is because the Russian agency has lost its monopoly on the flight to the ISS, since American and European astronauts can join the space station aboard SpaceX vessels from Elon Musk.

The loss of these contracts represents a shortfall of tens of millions of euros per seat for Roscosmos.

According to Mr. Shelley, the cost of a seat on the Soyuz rocket is between 50 and 60 million dollars.

“This is really a very exciting time for us,” he said of the upcoming robbery of Mr. Maezawa, who made his fortune in online fashion, and his collaborator.

"Our Russian partners have been really very accommodating so that this can be done," he said.

The space sector is experiencing a revolution, first with SpaceX which launches rockets for NASA, prepares the conquest of Mars, and performs civilian flights.

A group of amateurs was thus successfully sent into orbit around the Earth, a first.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk, March 9, 2020 in Washington Brendan Smialowski AFP / Archives

Billionaire Richard Branson and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos have each created companies offering flights of minutes into space.

© 2021 AFP

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