Who will take Sarah Brightman’s place onboard Soyuz spacecraft?
After the resignation of British soprano singer Sarah Brightman from her spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS), the question is now who will take the vacant seat onboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft? It may be Brightman’s backup, Japanese entrepreneur Satoshi Takamatsu or Kazakh cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov, recent reports say. However, given the recent turmoil within Roscosmos – it might be neither.
“The contract between Roscosmos (Russia’s Federal Space Agency) and Space Adventures for the training of space tourist candidates remains in force. Satoshi Takamatsu continues training for the flight,” Russia Beyond The Headlines reported. “The final decision regarding Brightman’s successor will be taken in the very near future.”
The problem is that Takamatsu has, at present, has only paid for pre-flight training at the Cosmonaut Training Center.
If Takamatsu cannot meet the financial requirements, a professional Kazakh cosmonaut could be sent into space. This is according to Meirbek Moldabekov, deputy chairman of the Kazakh Investment and Development Ministry’s aerospace committee (Kazcosmos).
“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.
An agreement was reached in May between Roscosmos and Kazcosmos to consider sending a Kazakh cosmonaut to the space station. Plans to train Kazakh cosmonauts for flights to the ISS were mulled in 2009, but were postponed because of the global financial crisis.
“Representatives of Kazcosmos are now in Moscow discussing this project, given that the seat fixed for Brightman is now vacant,” Moldabekov said.
On May 13, Brightman announced that she is postponing her plans to launch aboard the upcoming Soyuz mission. She said that for personal family reasons her intentions have had to change and she is postponing her cosmonaut training and flight plans at this time.
Media reports suggested that Brightman was to pay about $52 million for the flight.
It is unclear what part, if any, the multiple failures that various Russian boosters and spacecraft have encountered recently might have impacted Brightman’s decision. 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.
Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.