ASTANA, December 29 – President Nursultan Nazarbayev has called on the government to develop a space tourism programme that will draw upon the legendary achievements and global reputation of the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Space exploration is of strategic significance for the development of Kazakhstan and is considered to be a primary resource that makes the country a world space power.
Baikonur is the largest operational space launch facility in Eurasia. It has retained its leading position as an international space centre for 55 years and remains the busiest commercial satellite launch site in the world. Russia has leased the Baikonur Cosmodrome from Kazakhstan until 2050.
About 20 satellites are launched into earth orbit from its facilities on an annual basis. The government of Kazakhstan has adopted a space industry development programme and is currently implementing several large space projects.
During the 17th session of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization, President Nazarbayev said he wanted to promote the development of space tourism.
“We are paying attention to (developing) space tourism,” the president then said. “Currently, there are three dozen launch sites in the world, but the Baikonur space launch site is of particular importance. I believe it will be promising to organize visiting spacecraft launches from the Baikonur space centre and to arrange visits of this great space harbor by tourists from different countries of the world.”
“Truly epochal events are associated with the Baikonur space launch site: The first space satellite, the first man in space, the first spacewalk and the first international crews were all launched from Baikonur,” President Nazarbayev said.
Former Minister of Tourism and Sports Temirkhan Dosmukhambetov, now a member of the Majilis of the Parliament, said the government planned to build a tourism complex at Baikonur. The project will be called “Kazakhstan, The First Space Harbor of the Planet.” It will involve the construction of a tourist space entertainment centre similar to the tourist complex at Cape Canaveral in the United States which will include world-class hotels, a flight control display centre, a planetarium, a museum of space exploration, a chain of stores, supermarkets and restaurants, a youth space café, a greenhouse and a cascading fountain.
French astronaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré told Nazarbayev University students that in the near future Kazakhstan would become a global centre of space tourism. He predicted that airlines would operate commercial civilian spacecraft flying to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) by 2020.
The concept of space tourism for wealthy individuals is becoming increasingly popular and practical. Haigneré said Kazakhstan’s technologically advanced society and the facilities of Baikonur made it an appropriate centre to develop this market.
Baikonur already provides a three-day package tour of the spaceport, including the launch complex from which Soviet Maj. Yuri Gagarin, the first human being to fly into space, took off in April 1961, the Museum of the History of Cosmonautics and the huts where Gagarin and Soviet Chief Designer Sergei Korolev lived.
Baikonur also provides visits to its Soyuz and Proton launch complexes and the Proton assembly plant. These tours are currently conducted only on an irregular basis and applications for one should be submitted at least two months in advance. They cost about $3,000 to $3,500 each.