ASTANA – With British soprano Sarah Brightman having dropped out of the spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS), Kazakh cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov has a chance at the vacant seat, Spaceflight Insider reported at the end of May.
Kazcosmos, Kazakhstan’s space exploration agency, is “now urgently preparing its scientific research programme,” Deputy Chairman of Kascosmos Meirbek Moldabekov said on May 26, according to the report. Officials have been sent to Moscow to “discuss a potential contract,” he said.
Brightman dropped out of the space tourism trip, which is scheduled to travel to the ISS on a Russian Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft in September, in mid May. Her backup is Japanese entrepreneur Satoshi Takamatsu; however, Takamatsu so far has only paid for pre-flight training at the Cosmonaut Training Centre, Spaceflight Insider reports.
If Takamatsu cannot or will not meet the financial requirements (Brightman reportedly was to pay about $52 million for the trip) then the Kazakh cosmonaut could fill the empty space.
“The Russian side has notified us that our cosmonaut may be allowed to fly in September. Sarah Brightman’s seat is vacant today. That is why we are considering the possibility of our cosmonaut Aimbetov’s flight,” Moldabekov said,according to Spaceflight Insider. He reported that the presidents of the two countries – Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan and Vladimir Putin of Russia – discussed the possibility of a Kazakh cosmonaut joining the trip during a meeting in May.
Roscosmos said in a press release that various options are being considered and negotiations are still underway. On May 25, Russia Beyond the Headlines reported that a Roscosmos source said, “The contract between Roscosmos and Space Adventures for the training of space tourist candidates remains in force. Satoshi Takamatsu continues training for the flight.”
The April failure of a Russian Soyuz rocket recently delayed the return of a three-person crew from the ISS by about one month. “Both Roscosmos and NASA have had to adjust future flights to the orbiting laboratory as the issues with the Soyuz booster and Progress spacecraft are investigated,” Russia Beyond the Headlines reported.