Space Tourist Tito Visits Russia
May. 16, 2001
MOSCOW (AP) _ Dennis Tito, the world's first space tourist, returned to Russia to meet with former crewmates on Wednesday and lay flowers at a monument to the first man in space.
The California businessman was back at the Star City cosmonaut training center just outside Moscow, where he spent months preparing for his trip to the international space station.
Accompanied by his former crewmates _ cosmonauts Talgat Musabayev and Yuri Baturin _ Tito place a bouquet of red carnations at Yugi Gagarin's statue in a ceremony shown on Russia's ORT state television.
Star City officials offered Tito and the cosmonauts a traditional welcome Wednesday, greeting them with a huge loaf of bread with salt in the center.
``A Russian tradition,'' Musabayev explained in English, showing Tito how to break off a piece of bread and dip it in salt before eating it. ``The first tradition without vodka.''
Tito, who reportedly paid up to $20 million for the eight-day space voyage in April and May, said his trip was perfect. While aboard the space station, he occupied himself with taking photographs, helping the crew with serving meals, and listening to opera on his CD player.
U.S. space agency NASA tried to get Tito's flight delayed, saying he didn't have enough training, but Russian space officials insisted the 60-year-old former rocket engineer received the training of a professional cosmonaut.