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CNN in preliminary talks with Russians to send reporter to "Mir'

Published Oct. 2, 2005

CNN is considering a new angle on space coverage _ from Russia's Mir space station.

A CNN spokesman confirmed Tuesday that the news network is in "very, very, very preliminary discussions" with Russian space officials about sending a reporter to Mir. The news was first reported in this week's issue of the trade journal Space News.

Spokesman David Talley said from CNN headquarters in Atlanta that he has heard prices for a Mir visit ranging from $5-million to $15-million, but he stressed that nothing _ cost or otherwise _ has been negotiated yet.

The Tokyo Broadcasting System paid $12-million to send news director Toyohiro Akiyama on an eight-day Mir mission in December 1990. He was the first, and so far only, journalist to fly in space.

If everything works out _ a big if at this point _ CNN most likely would send correspondent John Holliman, who covers NASA for the network. The selection would depend on the medical exams and flight training required by the Russians, Talley said.

There's the danger factor, too. NASA waited until close to launch last month before deciding to send astronaut David Wolf to the aging space station for a four-month stay.

"Yes, that would certainly be a concern as well," Talley said.

The CNN reporter would be launched from Kazakstan on a Russian Soyuz rocket, would spend a week or two or three aboard Mir and then return to Kazakstan in a Soyuz capsule.

"I think everybody in their right mind would want to go up and report from space," Talley said. "We carry all the shuttle launches and the shuttle landings, and John follows the space program very, very closely. It would be great for us to be able to report from space."

NASA instituted a Journalist in Space Project in 1985 but put it on indefinite hold after the 1986 Challenger explosion.

The seven killed aboard Challenger included Christa McAuliffe, the finalist in NASA's Teacher in Space Project. That program too is on indefinite hold.