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Around the moon in 2011

Russia's RIA/Novosti news service reports on Moscow's plans to rejuvenate its space program - starting out with a sun-observing probe in 2008 and a 2009 mission to bring back a sample from Phobos, one of Mars' two moons. But for followers of the commercial space race, the most interesting tidbits have to do with the blueprint for human spaceflight.

Russian space officials are quoted as saying that beginning next year, their Soyuz capsules will "as a rule" have one space tourist flying alongside two professional cosmonauts - and that a round-the-moon flight is planned for 2011, with two paying passengers accompanying two professionals. This implies that there'll be takers for the $100 million-per-seat ride. Eric Anderson, the president and chief executive officer of Virginia-based Space Adventures, has hinted that there are indeed deep-pocketed adventurers interested in taking the trip.

Stay tuned ... for the next four years.