A Russian politician and millionaire who took part in a controversial flag-planting expedition in the Arctic Ocean last month is to be the country's first space tourist, according to a Russian business daily.
Vedomosti quoted an unnamed source at the Russian Space Agency as naming grocery tycoon and legislator Vladimir Gruzdev as the first Russian civilian to make the trip to the International Space Station.
According to the Vedomosti report, the flight would take place in September 2008.
The head of the space agency, Anatoly Perminov, had on Friday told reporters negotiations were underway with a would-be space tourist, but did not reveal his name and suggested such a flight would take place in 2009.
There have so far been five "space tourists": wealthy civilians who have travelled to the International Space Station after paying fees ranging from $20 millionto $25 million US.
Though the tourists travel aboard Russian Soyuz rockets, accompanied by Russian cosmonauts, none of the space tourists so far have been from Russia.
Should Gruzdev be next in line, he would become the sixth space tourist, joining American businessmen Dennis Tito and Gregory Olsen, South African technology entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth, Iranian-American entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari and, most recently, Hungarian-born software engineer Charles Simonyi.
How much the trip will cost is another question. Russian news agencies quote officials saying the flight would cost around $25 million US. But Eric Anderson, the chief executive for U.S.-based Space Adventures, which brokers the trips, recently said a weak U.S. dollar would raise prices to $40 million US in 2008 and 2009.
Gruzdev, 40,first rose to international prominence last month,when he helped lead a submarine expedition that planted a Russian flag in the Arctic Ocean as a symbolic claim to the polar region's oil and minerals.