Cindy Crawford a Space Tourist? Russian Says 'Da'
 

Sat Jun 8,11:00 AM ET

By Broward Liston

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - The new commander of the International Space Station (news - web sites) quipped on Saturday he would rather see supermodel Cindy Crawford become the next space tourist to visit the station than boy-band icon Lance Bass.

The docked International Space Station and the shuttle Endeavour orbit the earth June 8, 2002. The new space station crew officially took their place late on June 7, although a formal handover ceremony with the departing crew will take place during Endeavour's eight-day stay. (NASA TV via Reuters)

Well, how about Cindy Crawford? We would love to see one of the supermodels," joked Valery Korzun when asked about a possible visit by Bass during a linkup with reporters.

Though it was a playful exchange, space tourism is evolving into a serious venture, bringing in much-needed cash to the strapped Russian space program.

Bass, one-fifth of the hit boy band 'NSYNC (news - web sites), has been negotiating with Russian authorities for a $20 million ride on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft when it visits the space station in October.

Becoming serious, Korzun, who arrived at the orbiting outpost on Friday aboard the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour, said he thought it was better to have tourists like South African Mark Shuttleworth, whose computer expertise added something to the station when he paid $20 million to fly there in April via Soyuz.

But if Bass was chosen, he would be greeted warmly, he said. "We would be happy to see any space tourist. They're very welcome here," Korzun said.

American millionaire Dennis Tito also paid the $20 million fare to fly the Soyuz last year.

MONTHS ON THE STATION

Korzun and his crewmates, Sergei Treschev and American Peggy Whitson, are to spend 4-1/2 months on the station, but Korzun said he had prepared them to stay longer if something should delay their return to Earth.

"Physically and psychologically, we are prepared to fly at least a year and a half. Right now I'm preparing my crew for a year and a half minimum, and we're in great spirits," he said.

Korzun is something of an authority on how things can go wrong on a space station. He was in command of the Russian station Mir when a faulty oxygen generator sparked a dangerous fire in 1997, and was credited with coordinating the actions that helped preserve it.

His new outpost was a beehive of activity on Saturday, with 10 astronauts from four countries offloading tons of cargo from Endeavour and preparing for the first of three spacewalks on Sunday.

That new crew officially took their place late on Friday, although a formal handover ceremony with the departing crew will take place during Endeavour's eight-day stay.

All of Endeavour's 3 tons of cargo has to find a place on the station, its interior space roughly equivalent to a three-bedroom house.

When the shuttle departs, it will return the old station crew -- Daniel Bursch, Carl Walz and Yury Onufrienko -- to Earth following a six-month stay.

Topping the day's activities was removal of the Italian-built Leonardo cargo module from Endeavour's cargo bay and mounting it on the space station. Leonardo will be filled with garbage and used hardware for the return leg of the mission.

On Sunday, French astronaut Philippe Perrin and Costa Rican-born NASA (news - web sites) astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz will take their first spacewalk, installing a mobile mount for the station's 58-foot construction robot, sometimes called the Big Arm, onto a rail system that will allow it to travel the 356-foot length of the station as construction continues.