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To Russia, With a Love for Space Exploration


Before you say nyet to a one-week, $19,000 vacation, consider this: You will be going where few have gone before, doing what few have done or will ever get to do. And you will be one small step ahead of all the puny wannabes who brag about their fast times at baseball, golf or Harley-riding camp.

Two guys in Beverly Hills--Boris Krutonog and Dmitry Netkach, both originally from Russia--have negotiated with the Russian government to permit small groups of Americans to enter Star City, outside Moscow, and participate in actual training alongside cosmonauts now readying for blastoff to Mir and the international space station.

For seven days, you can live among Russia's real space cadets, experiencing all the same G-forces, underwater simulations of spacewalks and other preparations that cosmonauts undergo . . . and on the very same equipment they use.

You needn't be an athlete, Krutonog says. "It's all about having a great time." You'll stay in Moscow's five-star Radisson Hotel, and during off-duty hours experience Moscow's "finest dining and entertainment," he says. But by day, you will (after passing medical exams) do exactly what honest-to-gosh cosmo- and astronauts do. And you'll do it in what was for years a secret city, open to no one but the Russian High Command and the chosen few selected to be Russia's most exalted.

We phoned America's own nonprofit space camp, which was started at Cape Kennedy by the Mercury astronauts, and found out that this Russian opportunity is "the real deal."

Keith Sterner, of the Florida space camp, says the U.S. has great programs for children and adults, but all are simulations of the real thing, and none take place where astronauts actually train. Because of Russia's economic crisis, Sterner says, the government needs dollars for its space program and decided to allow limited numbers of tourists to "train" in Star City.

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