Well, it looks like Charles Simonyi might have to wait a while for a third trip, because space tourism is going on hiatus. With the shuttle’s cancellation leaving Russia as the only country able to service the International Space Station (ISS), the Russian government has announced it will no longer let civilians hitch a ride on Soyuz flights.
Due to obsolescence and budget cuts, NASA’s Space Shuttle will cease flying at the end of the year. That retirement places a great deal of pressure on the Russian space program. Until the arrival of the Shuttle’s replacement, Russia needs to conserve space on any and all flights to meet the needs of the ISS. That means no seats for tourists.
Right now, the US aims to have the Shuttle’s replacement flying by 2014. However, funding problems, a fundamental reordering of NASA’s priorities, and the general inefficiency of government aerospace programs means NASA’s new spacecraft probably won’t arrive until well after that date.
But look on the bright side. This delay buys you the time needed to save up enough money to actually become a space tourist! It only cost around $30 million to fly to the ISS, so start checking those couch cushions for loose change right away.