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British singer Sarah Brightman to be Russia's next space tourist

MOSCOW, Oct 10 (Reuters) - British singer Sarah Brightmanannounced on Wednesday she had bought a seat to fly on a Russianspaceship, describing the journey as a chance to fulfil achildhood desire "beyond her wildest dreams."

Brightman, 52, who is famous for starring in "The Phantom ofthe Opera", plans to rocket some 250 miles (400 km) above Earthto the International Space Station - becoming the first spacetourist since Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte donned ared clown's nose on his 2009 trip.

"I am more excited about this than I have been aboutanything I have done to date," Brightman, in platform heels anda silky black dress, told reporters on a visit to Moscow. "Mostof my life I have felt an incredible desire to take the journeyto space that I have now begun," she said.

"This is beyond my wildest dreams."

A press conference held for the announcement in Moscow beganwith a music video advertising Brightman's new album "DreamChaser", which is expected to be released in January.

The video of her crooning the album's top track "Angel" isspliced with footage of her as a child and famous moments fromSoviet space history.

Brightman, a UNESCO artist for peace, said seeing fuzzytelevision images of the first "bouncing" human steps on themoon in 1969 when she was eight years old inspired her with thedream to travel to space.

"It was something miraculous. For me it was an epiphany,"she said of the experience.

"It seemed so unrealistic and crazy at the time but Isuddenly saw that it was possible," she said.

While the diva did not disclose the price tag for the trip,the ninth so far brokered by U.S. firm Space Adventures, it canbe expected to be at least as much as Russia charges NASAastronauts for the privilege - more than $50 million.

The adventure package includes 12 days in orbit. Brightmansaid she will use her mission to promote education for women inthe sciences and raise environmental awareness.

The star - who sung her about enthusiasm for space inthigh-high boots and a sequined leotard in her 1970s hit "I Lostmy Heart to a Starship Trooper" - has already booked a ride onVirgin Galactic's planned suborbital SpaceShipTwo vehicle.

A decade after U.S. businessman Dennis Tito became Russia'sfirst space tourist, the commercial space flight industry isheating up.

U.S. space agency NASA gave the industry a boost when itsignalled it expects to rely on private sector "space taxis" toferry cargo and crew to the $100-billion orbital researchstation after the retirement of its shuttle programme last year.

To experience weightlessness on Virgin Galactic's suborbitalplane, Brightman will have bought a $200,000 ticket. The firm,an offshoot of British tycoon Richard Branson's Virgin Group,expects to launch commercial service in late 2013 or 2014.

The singer will be the first space tourist aboard Russia'sSoyuz spaceship since 2009 after seats on the three-person craftbecame scarce when NASA mothballed its shuttles, leaving Russianrockets as the only ones capable of carrying crews into orbit.

But NASA is considering doubling the amount of time anastronaut spends on the orbital station to one year - to lay thegroundwork for future missions deeper into space - potentiallyfreeing up seats for tourist from 2015.

A Russian space official Alexei Krasnov said Brightman'sflight would likely be carried out in 2015.

Brightman married composer Andrew Lloyd Webber in the 1980sand pursued a chart-topping solo career after they broke up in1990, bringing classical music to a broader audience and sellingmillions of records along the way.

(Reporting By Alissa De Carbonnel)

((alissa.decarbonnel.com)(+7 485 775 1242))

Keywords: RUSSIA SPACE/TOURIST