Cosmonaut Tito in His Own Words

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On his epic journey:

"I'm definitely flying. I've waited 40 years to achieve my dream and let me tell you, even now, it is hard to believe. Very hard to believe."

Tito explained that his whole family would attend the launch at the cosmodrome in Baikonur, as well as a number of business colleagues from Los Angeles. He told TIME he would video and photograph his journey for "private purposes," as "this is a private flight, it's not a commercial flight." But when pushed, Tito did say, "Yeah, I would think I'm likely to do a book. I'll certainly have gathered enough material, don't you think? And this is something that a lot of Americans seem to be pretty interested in. Am I wrong?"

On the possibility of being locked out of the U.S. sector:

"If I'm not welcome in the U.S. sector, I'm not going to try to climb the wall or dig under it. I'll respect any restrictions placed on me, if any. Space after all is the same, whether it's the American segment or the Russian. And the Russian segment has most of the portals [sleeping bunks] anyway. I'm not really that familiar with the American segment, but I think there's only one portal there."

On wanting to help NASA:

"I hope when I get back I can do some good as far as communicating what it's like to be in space — and supporting the International Space Station [ISS] and NASA in their funding efforts. NASA doesn't really need any of my money (laughs), not with their multi-billion-dollar budget. But they could use some help in building public support for the space program. And I'd like to help them in any way I can. It's not really 'them' — it's 'us.' We Americans, NASA is our space program, the whole country's. And all Americans should feel a part of it. I really think that my flight will only help, in building public interest in space again."

"But I do understand their resistance, why they're uncomfortable. I realize that my flight turned the clock ahead, about four or five years ahead of what NASA had planned. So I understand their resistance. But space travel is going to become an integral part of the ISS. I'm sure of it."

On his cosmonaut diet:

"I do miss a good hamburger. That's one thing I'll be looking forward to — American food. I do have my own food here, but it's not quite what I'm used in America. I cook myself and make my own bed. It's like being back in college and I've got to say it's fun. I don't even have a cook at my own home. I've been living on pasta — no cheese, too fattening. So I've had a fair amount of pasta with low-fat organic tomato sauce and canned soups I brought over from the U.S. Except for when you have to do a lunch with the Russians — then it's over to the cosmonauts' canteen and that's the typical Russian fare. Not exactly dietetic. They do have a lot more fat in their diet."

Did he really pay $20 million to fly with the Russians?

"That is one area I'm not at liberty to discuss. I just can't comment. Look, there's all kinds of confidentiality agreements I'd have to break to answer that."