Private citizens in Japan who yearn to travel in space will soon get a chance to live out their fantasies — for a suitably astronomical sum.

JTB Corp., the nation’s largest travel agency, said Thursday it will start inviting applications in October for commercial spaceflight programs organized by U.S. space tourism firm Space Adventures, Ltd.

“Japan and the Japanese market has been, since the very beginning of Space Adventures, an extremely important market to develop,” Space Adventures Chief Executive Eric Anderson told a news conference in Tokyo. “We’ve had many customers (for our space-related programs) in the past from Japan, and the interest in space tourism here is very large.”

Space Adventures, based in Arlington, Va., pioneered commercial space tourism by sending the first two private citizens to the International Space Station — U.S. businessman Dennis Tito in 2001 and African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth in 2002.

U.S. businessman Greg Olsen is scheduled to become, in October, the third private space traveler.

JTB will handle all five programs offered by Space Adventures, including the same orbital flights as those experienced by Tito and Shuttleworth, a trip around the moon aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and a suborbital flight program.

Orbital flights aboard the Soyuz are priced at 2.2 billion yen, including a weeklong stay at the ISS; customers will need to undergo six months of training and health checks. The Soyuz can carry two travelers and a pilot.

The moon trip, which costs 11 billion yen, consists of six to eight months of training, a six-day moon voyage and a visit to the ISS, where participants will stay for a week. The firm hopes to launch the lunar tour as early as 2008.

The suborbital program, which will be available in 2007, allows passengers to look down on Earth from an altitude of 100 km and to experience zero gravity for up to five minutes. It costs 11 million yen and involves a few days of training.

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