ABC News is reporting that Phantom of the Opera actress/singer Sarah Brightman outbid NASA for a seat on a Soyuz flight to the International Space Station. Brightman reportedly bumped a NASA astronaut from the flight by agreeing to pay more than $51 million. (Update: NASA denies that any of its astronauts were bumped from the Soyuz flight. Update 2: Sarah Brightman has made an official announcement, as expected.)

Whether this story is true or not remains to be confirmed. Space news reporting by the mainstream media tends to be spotty. That was illustrated earlier this week when an Irish newspaper reported a wild story by author J.K. Rowling, who claimed she had turned down a seat on the Space Shuttle. We noted the many problems with that story. (The ABC News article reports that NASA has, not surprisingly, scotched that story.)

This story would be a bit surprising, if it turns out to be true. In the past, the Russians have charged more than commercial customers for Soyuz flights. (NASA is known to be a difficult customer.)

Assuming the story is true, it’s an interesting footnote in the history of citizen space exploration. It could lead to some interesting bidding wars when US companies such as Boeing, SpaceX, and Sierra Nevada begin flights to the International Space Station.

There might also be some political danger here. Members of Congress have made it quite clear they view citizen space explorers as mere joyriders, whose presence is to be tolerated, and not in the same league as government astronauts. If a NASA astronaut gets bumped from a commercial ride, there will probably be howls of protest from Congress and sanctimonious reminders of how much money Congress has invested to help get commercial crew capabilities off the ground.

Sarah Brightman has also purchased a ticket for a suborbital flight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two, which is quite a bit cheaper ($200,000). If Brightman has as much interest as this report indicates, she might become a frequent space traveler.

Coincidentally, Brightman’s current world tour is called “Dreamchaser”, not to be confused with the Dream Chaser from Sierra Nevada.

Update: NASA Watch is upset.


Written by Astro1 on October 3rd, 2012 , Citizen Exploration, Space Adventures, Virgin Galactic

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    Michael R. commented

    Well, if it is true, is it not “joy-riding” (for the elites who can plop down 50 mil)?

    If not a joyride, then what is her scientific or even artistic mission (I approve of “cultural use” of the ISS, btw).

    Congress has a right to protest…that would be doing their job of representing the taxpayers’ interest in all this.

    While I understand the reflex to cheer any citizen access to space habitation on a blog devoted to citizen space initiatives…perhaps that cheer should be tempered with at least some recognition that, so far, the citizen space movement is reserved for only the wealthy few…who get — what? — bragging rights? …hardly a development for democratic citizens to be proud of.

    October 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm
      admin commented

      Aviation originally developed as “joyrides” for rich people. Like William Boeing, who attended an air meet in California because he wanted to ride in an airplane. But he couldn’t find anyone to sell him one, so he went back home to Seattle and hired an engineer to build him an airplane. The Boeing Company is still building airplanes today. People used to speak of “the jet set” — the super rich who could afford to travel in airplanes. Over time, the technology evolved and became more affordable. When was the last time you traveled by Greyhound bus?

      October 3, 2012 at 9:28 pm
    Ryan commented

    I’m not sure how accurate the Celebrity Net Worth websites are, but if she is only worth $45 mil I’m going to guess she didn’t take out a $6 mil advance and liquidate everything she owns.

    October 3, 2012 at 11:44 pm
    VICTOR M. commented

    The rumours are about to end and this is why:

    By the way, the Celebrity Net Worth are not accurate at all. Brightman is worth more than 45 mil. She supports the Virgin Galactic program, she owns a film production company. She also has shares in Simha LLC. It also seems that this trip to the International Space Station is being supported by UNESCO. Sarah was recently named UNESCO’s Artist for Peace.

    October 4, 2012 at 2:09 pm