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$20 million space vacation

Marketplace Staff Sep 18, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Anousheh Ansari got the ride of her life today. She blasted off on a Russian rocket to the International Space Station. Ansari ponied up $20 million to become the first female space tourist. Writers Christopher Noxon and Ruth Ellenson help us shed a little more light on man . . . or . . . woman and the Final Frontier.

CHRISTOPHER NOXON: Congratulations, Ruthie. I don’t know if you heard, but Anousheh Ansari becomes the first female space tourist. So, you know, it’s a historic day for all of womankind, right?

RUTH ELLENSON: Please. Can you imagine being one of the cosmonauts? I mean, you you’ve got a PhD in astrophysics, you train for years, you ride around in that G-force thingie that makes your cheeks flap, and then your boss calls you up and says you’ve basically gotta babysit some VIP millionairess when you’ve got a space mission to run?

NOXON: Well, you know, it could’ve been a lot worse. Madonna apparently expressed some interest in going up on one of these flights. You can only imagine how that would have gone. Like, [AS RUSSIAN COSMONAUT:] Yes, Cosmonaut Ciccone, we check on oxygen supply later. Now we collect your sweat droplets from yoga and sell them on the eBay. Let us raise a glass of Tangtini and I sing your famous ode to space travel. “You might be my lucky star, but I’m the luckiest . . . “

ELLENSON: Easy there Cosmonaut Chris. I mean, alright, she might not be Madonna, but I bet you Ms. Ansari could still be quite the diva. On earth, she and her husband created a technology company that sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. So you gotta know she thinks of herself as quite the technology wiz. Can you imagine being the poor cosmonaut who has to deal with her “helpful hints.”

NOXON [in cosmonaut voice again]: Yes, it would be better if our mission control monitor was flatscreen. But please, you’ve been on the space arm joystick for three hours. It’s not an X-box.

ELLENSON: I know. You wouldn’t believe how seriously she’s taking this joyride. On her website, she’s calling herself “the first space ambassador.”

NOXON: What does that mean? Like, she’s gonna go greet the King of Space with good tidings from Earth . . .

ELLENSON: I know. Maybe I’m too cynical but, you know, it’s not enough that millionaires can buy ambassadorships to countries like Luxembourg? Now for $20 million you can represent the entire planet.

NOXON: Well, if by entire planet you mean her own company. Turns out she’s got a Russian contract to make the sub-orbital vehicles that will be used to transport future space tourists.

ELLENSON: So you’re telling me that Earth’s ambassador . . .

NOXON: . . . is in it for the money. On this trip, the only little green men they’re looking for are the Benjamins.

RYSSDAL: Christopher Noxon is author of “Rejuvenile.” Ruth Ellenson is editor of “The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt.”

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