Russia to resume space tourism in 2018

U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly, right, Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka, center, and Mikhail Korniyenko pose before their final preflight practical examination in a mock-up of a Soyuz TMA space craft at Russian Space Training Center in Star City, outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia officials say they will resume space tourism in 2018 after years of sending into space only professional cosmonauts and astronauts.

Russia had sent seven paying guests to the International Space Station since 2001 before curtailing the program in 2009. Sending a tourist has been all but impossible since 2011 when the United States shut down its Space Shuttle program and had to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets in order to get into orbit.

Russia, however, has made an exception for British soprano Sarah Brightman who is due to blast off on Sept. 1.

RKK Energia, a state-controlled rocket manufacturer, said in a quarterly report released on Tuesday that it plans to make up for an expected drop in demand for manned flights by resuming space tourism in 2018.

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