Soviet journalists are hurt that they have been passed over for the first commercial trip to the space station Mir in favor of a Japanese reporter whose company can pay hard currency.
Complaints surfaced in the Soviet press today after the announcement that Tokyo Broadcasting System signed a non-governmental deal with Glavkosmos, the Soviet civilian space agency, to send a reporter to Mir in 1991 as part of its 40th birthday celebration.
The Japanese television company plans to pay $11.3 million for the space flight, Komsomolskaya Pravda, the Communist Youth League newspaper, reported.
“How could this happen in the country that produced Gagarin and Tereshkova?” columnist Yaroslav Golovanov wrote in the paper, referring to Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova, the first man and woman in space.
“Isn’t it clear that such a deal is degrading for our civic dignity? Don’t our high-placed ‘cosmic merchants’ understand that?” Golovanov added.
He appealed to the Soviet government to annul the “brazen contract.”
Pravda columnist A. Tarasov commented that it was easy to guess why, when Glavkosmos was deciding on its first paying passenger, “its eye passed indifferently over the Soviet press.”
“Alas, alas, we all get our pay in ordinary Soviet rubles and can’t pay for the flight in the convertible currency which Glavkosmos needs so badly,” he wrote.
The flight is expected to last almost eight days.
The Tokyo Broadcast System has begun a selection process among almost 40 of its reporters and plans to put two finalists through a two-year Soviet training course, deciding only at the last minute which one will actually make the trip, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported.