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President meets India's would-be first space tourist
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May 04, 2007 17:52 IST
Film your experiences in outer space and show them to children to create awareness -- this was President A P J Abdul Kalam's advice to "travel freak" Santosh George, set to become India's first space tourist.

George, who has reserved a seat on a space flight by Virgin Galactic, was "thrilled" about meeting the scientist-president, who he said knew more about space travel than him.

"He explained the project in detail. He even knew how many miles the spacecraft will travel and other minute technical details. Even I did not knew all this," George told PTI after meeting Kalam on Thursday evening.

George's name hit the headlines in April after global space tour operator Virgin Galactic confirmed the entrepreneur's reservation on a flight of the VSS Enterprise spacecraft scheduled for sometime in 2008.

Asked how the meeting with Kalam came about, George said he always wanted to meet India's missile-man and got an opportunity after he signed up to become India's first space tourist.

"I wrote to him saying I had been selected for the space journey and wanted to meet him. He granted an audience. He was very happy about my trip and told me to capture on camera all my experiences during the flight so that they can be shown to children to create awareness," he said.

George, who runs an educational publishing house at Marangattupalli in Kerala's Kottayam district, presented a copy of his book "Natashayude Varnaballoonugal" (Natasha's Colourful Balloons), a travelogue, to Kalam during the 20-minute-meeting.

Kalam asked 35-year-old George to meet Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman G Madhavan Nair before his expensive space journey with five tourists, including two US-based Indian Americans, and two navigators.

He will pay around Rs 1 crore for the two-hour-flight on SpaceShip Two but there will be no landing on another planet. The tourists will experience zero gravity and re-entry into the earth's atmosphere.

"Travelling is my passion. I have travelled to over 50 countries and penned two travelogues. Travelling to space is the ultimate ambition of any travel freak as it is the last destination known to man," George said.

George, who hosts the popular travel show "Sancharam" (Travel) on a Malayalam channel, will soon go to Paris for a training programme with his fellow passengers.

The preparations will be completed by the end of 2007 and the space flight will take place sometime in mid-2008, he said.

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