First space tourist took orbit 10 years ago

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Alexey Sazonov/AFP/Getty Images

Cosmonaut Talgat Musabayev of Russia (L) and Dennis Tito, the world's first space tourist speaks on April 11, 2011 during a reception devoted to the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's historic first space flight and the upcoming Day of Aviation and Cosmonautics celebrated today in Moscow.

The time’s sped by like a comet - the first space tourist went into orbit 10 years ago today.

He was Dennis Tito, founder and chairman of Santa Monica-based investment advisor Wilshire Associates. Tito reportedly paid $20 million to ride along on a Russian Soyuz mission for nine days starting on April 28, 2001.

The post-Soviet space agency was happy to accept the money. Tito, a former engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, told reporters he performed scientific experiments that would benefit his business.

Since that first tourist in space, five men and one woman have followed. If some entrepreneurs have their way, those orbiters won’t be the last.

One company, Space X of Hawthorne, not only wants to develop economical, reusable ways to transport payloads into space – its founder Elon Musk says he hopes to place human beings on Mars within the next 20 years.

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