03 April 2006

Private rocket flight pioneer

Adnan al-Maimani insists he isn't looking to be a pioneer - he just dreams of looking down on Earth. So the 40-year-old entrepreneur is paying more than $100,000 to go on the first flight traveling to the edge of space from a Mideast nation.

The flight, which will travel about 62 miles toward space and give its passengers up to five minutes of weightlessness, is part of an American company's plan to establish a spaceport in the northern tip of the United Arab Emirates.

Virginia-based Space Adventures - the only company to have successfully sent private citizens into space - won't say when the flight will take place, only that it will be within a few years.

But al-Maimani, 40, already thinks the project will be a boost to his homeland, which has seen a boom in construction and finance the past decade.

"It's a great social and economic opportunity for the United Arab Emirates. It will create jobs and open up the economy even further," he told The Associated Press.

Al-Maimani, who owns a technology development firm, will ride a Russian-designed suborbital craft called the Explorer to the edge of space, experience weightlessness and return. The craft, capable of carrying five people, is carried first on an airplane, from which it launches on rocket power for the remainder of the journey.

"I'm not in it for the adventure. My point of view is exploration. To become richer with experience, look back at Earth and realize the potential," said al-Maimani, who will pay $102,000 for the one-hour flight.

The suborbital mission would be the first to be launched from the Middle East. Space Adventures has not announced who else will be on the Explorer's flight.

More here.

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