An Australian entrepreneur and self-described "thrillionaire" has signed on as the backup space tourist for the next paid flight to the International Space Station (ISS).
The Virginia-based firm Space Adventures officially named financial strategist Nik Halik as the backup crewmate to American space tourist Richard Garriott, who is training for a planned October launch to the ISS aboard a Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft.
Halik, 38, is paying $3 million to train alongside Garriott as a backup spaceflyer.
"I am thrilled to be chosen as Richard's backup," Halik said in a statement. "I have dreamed of flying to space ever since I was a young boy."
Halik is the founder of Financial Freedom Institute, Money Masters and other firms, and penned the autobiography "The Thrillionaire" to be released in March.
He is a veteran adventurer and has chased tornadoes across the U.S. Midwest, dived down to the sunken wreck of the Titanic and led expeditions to Antarctica, Africa and the Amazon. Halik is also an experienced mountaineer with a planned Everest climb set for next year, Space Adventures officials said.
As Garriott's backup, Halik will participate in traditional spaceflight training activities and will also be featured in a documentary television series, Space Adventures officials have said.
"Through his participation as a backup crew member, Nik will experience firsthand how our clients train for spaceflight and he, himself, will be certified as a "fully-trained cosmonaut" and will be named to an official space mission crew, a distinction that less than 1,000 people have ever had," said Space Adventures president and CEO Eric Anderson.
Space Adventures is the only firm offering orbital flights for paying customers under agreements with Russia's Federal Space Agency, which routinely launches Soyuz spacecraft to ferry new crews to the ISS.
The last backup space tourist, American entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari, actually launched to the ISS in 2006 after the prime spaceflyer — Japanese businessman Daisuke Enomoto — was unable to fly.
Garriott, a computer game developer, is the son of former NASA astronaut Owen Garriott and will be the first second-generation U.S. spaceflyer when he launches later this year. He is paying about $30 million for the experience.
Halik's $3 million payment to serve as Garriott's backup can also be used as a credit for a future orbital or lunar spaceflight, Anderson has said.
"Nik and I have similar exploratory backgrounds and we'll have many stories to share during our time together in Star City," said Garriott, referring to the home of Russia's cosmonaut training center. "I look forward to train with him because not only is it meant to prepare myself for flight, but also to prepare Nik for his future flight. I definitely will be on-hand for his eventual launch to space."
Halik, meanwhile, said that is ultimate goal extends beyond Earth orbit.
"I watched recordings of Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon's surface and I vowed to follow," Halik said. "The space station will be my first stop, with my eyes focused on the moon."
Richard Garriott is chronicling his spaceflight training and mission at his personal Web site: www.richardinspace.com.