A grocery tycoon and politician who planted a flag on the North Pole's seabed last month will now go into orbit as the first Russian space tourist, leading business daily Vedomosti said on Monday.
Vladimir Gruzdev, aged 40, underwent medical tests in June and had been formally approved for a flight on board a Soyuz-TMA spacecraft in September 2008, the newspaper quoted an unnamed source from the Russian space company Energia as saying.
He was one of three submariners who on August 2 planted a rust-proof titanium Russian flag at the North Pole, 4,300 metres (14,000 ft) under water, in order to boost Russia's claim for a larger chunk of resource-rich Arctic seabed.
The head of Russian space agency Roskosmos, Anatoly Perminov, said last week the next space tourist would be a Russian, but did not name him. He said the man would be a "serious, respectable person, a businessman and politician".
Gruzdev's spokesman refused to comment and said he will not make any further statements, though the tycoon has a record of politically tinged exploration projects.
Gruzdev is a part owner of Seventh Continent, a leading Russian grocery chain and a deputy in the State Duma for the United Russia party, which holds the majority of seats in the lower chamber.
Of the five previous space tourists, who have paid up to $25 million (12.4 million pounds) to travel to the International Space Station, four were U.S. citizens and one was from South Africa.
Last Mod: 04 Eylül 2007, 08:35