The Japanese television company that paid $12 million to send a reporter on a Soviet space mission will think long and hard before another venture with the Soviets, a company official says.
"My advice: Don't do business with the Soviets for 10 years," said Ichiro Sasaki, an executive producer at the Tokyo Broadcasting System.It was Sasaki's idea to send journalist Toyohiro Akiyama into space, and he helped organize the project.
Now, even before the mission ends, he is disillusioned.
"Their space development is advanced, but their business is not," he said in an interview last week.
The Soviets have been trying for two years to commercialize their space program. The space agency Glavkosmos has signed commercial agreements for space flights with Austria, Britain, Germany and France, and more are in the works with China, Iran and Spain.
Sasaki said the Soviet space industry itself is dependable and even could be profitable for foreign investors.
But he complained about a disorganized array of companies and agencies that often make conflicting demands.
For example, the company's initial contract with space agency Glavkosmos, for example, said Akiyama would "cooperate" on the eight-day mission with the two Soviet cosmonauts, Victor Afanasyev and Musa Manarov.
The Japanese company understood its initial payment would cover the estimated 12 hours of help from the cosmonauts, Sasaki said.
But in the weeks leading up to liftoff, officials of Energia, the company that builds rockets and negotiates on behalf of the cosmonauts, said TBS must pay an additional $100,000 per hour for the services of Manarov and Afanasyev while in orbit, Sasaki said.