The first Chinese customer, surnamed Jiang from the booming southern city of Shenzhen, had already put down a deposit of more than 1 million yuan ($120,800) for a zero-gravity thrill ride, the Beijing Morning Post said on Monday, quoting an executive from the US-based Space Adventures.

 

"If everything goes smoothly, he will fly into space in 2006," it said, noting that Jiang had signed up for a short sub-orbital flight that would take him to the edge of the Earth's atmosphere.

 

Such a voyage was one of the cheaper choices in Space Adventure's portfolio for the Chinese market, which also includes Earth orbits and accommodation on space stations, the newspaper said.

 

No comment

 

The company was not immediately available for comment.

 

"If everything goes smoothly, he will fly into space in 2006"

Beijing Morning Post

More than 100 would-be space tourists worldwide have paid the company sizable deposits for rides on spacecraft not even built yet.

 

"Plans call for more than 20 Chinese tourists to be able to go to the United States to undergo ground-based space travel training as soon as May," the Beijing News said.

 

China became only the third country after the US and Russia to put a person in space and still has lofty ambitions.

 

It plans to launch its second manned spaceflight - a five-day mission with two astronauts aboard - in September, state media have reported.