Some Zillionaires Need Not Apply

the International Space Station, orbiting the earth
Even if they have the millions of dollars needed for a space station vacation, delinquents, liars, drunks and the infamous need not apply.

That's the word from NASA, which on Thursday released criteria for visitors to the international space station. The nine-page report wraps up two years of work on what's considered "a thorny topic" by at least one space station official.

The criteria were made public as the world's second paying space tourist, South African tycoon Mark Shuttleworth, finished a week of training at Johnson Space Center in Houston. He has reportedly paid about $20 million to fly to the space station via a Russian rocket in late April.

Shuttleworth received a warm welcome from NASA and even made it onto the space agency's television highlights this week, a stark contrast to California millionaire Dennis Tito's visit to the space center a year ago.

Tito was banned from joining his Russian crewmates in training and NASA opposed his flight to the space station until just a few days before his April launch from Kazakstan. He paid the Russian space program as much as $20 million for the eight-day flight.

NASA's top space station official, Michael Hawes, acknowledged that Tito's flight helped form the basis for the new criteria set forth by the space agencies of the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and Europe.

A candidate's past and present conduct must be assessed, according to the criteria, with disqualification considered in the case of delinquency or misconduct in prior employment or military service.

Other disqualifying traits: criminal, dishonest, infamous or notoriously disgraceful conduct; intentional false statement or fraud; habitual use of intoxicating beverages to excess; abuse of narcotics, drugs or other controlled substances; and membership or sponsorship in organizations which adversely affect the public's confidence in the space station or its partners.

A person's age at the time of the offense will be taken into account, as well as the surrounding circumstances.

"What we want to do is simply be sensitive to each of the other partners," said Charles Precourt, NASA's chief astronaut who helped draw up the criteria. "When we nominate someone, that we don't embarrass our partners by having someone who would be so controversial that it would be an insult to the other partners to fly them because of some behavioral background that was considered distasteful."

Precourt said the criteria are similar to what the government uses in background investigations for positions requiring security clearance. He said decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis and would require consensus among the participating countries. Any disputes will be decided at high government levels.

In addition, potential space station visitors must be able to read and speak English, pass medical tests that include behavioral assessments; undergo training both in Moscow and Houston; and adhere to a code of conduct.

awes stressed that the guidelines do not mean NASA is about to start flying tourists - or journalists, entertainers or any other nonprofessional astronauts - on its space shuttles. That issue is being considered by others in a separate study.

By Marcia Dunn © MMII The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed