'Phantom' Heroine To Travel To Space: Soprano Sarah Brightman Trains For Orbit

on October 12 2012 1:38 PM

Famous soprano Sarah Brightman will soon join the select group of businessmen, circus performers and other non-professional astronauts who have gone to space.

52-year-old Brightman announced Wednesday that U.S.-based space tourism company Space Adventures Ltd. will arrange for her to fly on a Russian Soyuz capsule up to the International Space Station. The exact date of the trip is still to be determined.

Brightman is probably most famous for originating the role of Christine Daae, the heroine of the box-office-annihilating Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Phantom of the Opera.” She left the theater in the 1990s to embark on her solo career.

But space, it seems, is even more enticing than the stage.

"I am more excited about this than I have been about anything I have done to date," Brightman said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

The price tag for the journey would normally be more than $20 million, but the singer told CNN that she isn’t footing the bill herself and will be making use of sponsorships to fund her space travels.

Brightman has already gone through a battery of medical tests and other exercises at the Russian Federal Space Agency’s cosmonaut training facility in Star City, Moscow. She was put in a centrifuge that created forces of up to 8Gs, and she had to do math problems in order to keep conscious while she was spinning.

“It’s an amazing feeling, but quite frightening,” Brightman told CNN.

The soprano was also put in an air compression chamber and  rotating chairs that induce nausea. And all throughout the process, further psychological and physical testing was conducted.

“You’re very prodded and poked throughout the whole thing, a lot of injections and blood taken,”  Brightman told CNN.

Space tourism has a long history -- in 1984 and 1985, American engineer Charles Walker flew on three Space Shuttle missions as a payload specialist for his employer, the McDonnell Douglas Corporation. Walker was the first non-government employee to fly into space.

In the 1980s, NASA aimed to send more citizens into space, starting with the Teacher in Space Program. Christa McAuliffe was selected as the first Teacher in Space in July 1985, but the subsequent Journalist in Space and Artist in Space programs were canceled after the 1986 Challenger disaster claimed the lives of McAuliffe and six other of the space shuttle's crew members.

Russia’s space tourism boom began in 2001, when investment manager Dennis Tito flew to the International Space Station and spent eight days in orbit. Since Tito’s flight, six other citizens have hitched a ride into space with the Russians.

Brightman won’t be the first artist to make the journey, either. The most recent space tourist was  Guy Laliberte, the former street musician who rose to become the CEO of Cirque de Soleil. Laliberte used his spaceflight to raise awareness about water scarcity issues, and he hosted a two-hour webcast featuring artistic performances aboard the ISS and on Earth.

We can probably expect something similar from the soprano, who was recently designated an artist for peace ambassador by UNESCO.

"I hope that I can encourage others to take inspiration from my journey both to chase down their own dreams and to help fulfill the important UNESCO mandate to promote peace and sustainable development on Earth and from space."

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