April 25, 2002

STAR CITY, Russia (CNN) — South African tycoon Mark Shuttleworth has fulfilled a childhood ambition by embarking on a space journey, becoming the world’s second tourist in orbit.

The 28-year-old millionaire businessman blasted off Thursday on a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur rocket launch center in Kazakhstan.

Less than 10 minutes after liftoff, Russian ground controllers said that the Soyuz crew, which includes Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gidzenko and Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori, had arrived in orbit without any problems.

The spacefarers should arrive Saturday at the international space station for an eight-day stay. Their 7-ton space capsule will remain at the orbital outpost, and the trio will return in an old Soyuz already docked there.

Soyuz capsules serve as emergency lifeboats for space station residents, and Russian taxi crews deliver a fresh one every six months.

In an interview before takeoff, Shuttleworth said he was feeling “some nervousness, some anxiety.”

“I am not a professional,” he added. “It continues to amaze me how calm, cool and collected the professionals are, but we have all been trained.”

He said he hoped to “find time to enjoy this extraordinary experience.”

Shuttleworth made his fortune after starting an Internet security firm in his parents’ garage and selling it four years later for hundreds of millions of dollars.

He spent nearly eight months preparing for the flight with cosmonauts in Russia and trained briefly at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Shuttleworth’s dream of space travel gained momentum last year when California equity fund manager Dennis Tito became the first tourist in space.

Tito, 61, also paid about $20 million to tag along with two cosmonauts for a weeklong trip to the space station. But he got the cold shoulder from NASA management.

The trip angered NASA, the primary space station partner, which argued that Tito’s presence could endanger the station crew. Since then, the two space agencies negotiated guidelines for future amateur visits to Alpha.

“One of the big things that I hope to achieve in this project was to show that public and private interests could work together for mutual benefit,” Shuttleworth said.

“We concluded a contract, I think for the first time, which will formalize the relationship and give me the ability to use some of the remarkable technology NASA has up there for educational and science purposes.”

Shuttleworth plans to conduct numerous experiments in space, including everything from HIV research to stem cells.

Gidzenko, making his third trip into orbit, is no stranger to the space station. He was a member of the first crew that lived there in 2000. Vittori, an astronaut with the Italian Space Agency, is making his first flight into space.

— writer Richard Stenger and CNN Space Correspondent Miles O’Brien contributed to this report