American Express ventures into outer space

NEW YORK -- American Express is offering cardmembers enrolled in its Membership Rewards program a chance to venture into outer space -- or at least the edge of it.

Through a partnership with Arlington, Va.-headquartered Space Adventures, which describes itself as "a space tourism company," cardmembers can redeem their rewards points for an "almost limitless number of things ... [including] a journey to the cusp of space," said Chris Lynch, vice president, rewards management at American Express.

American Express is offering three Space Adventures packages to Membership Rewards enrollees:

• Sub-Orbital Space Flight: For 20 million American Express Membership Rewards points, enrollees could be rocketing -- so to speak -- to an altitude of 62 miles in a "sub-orbital spacecraft," experience a few minutes of weightlessness, and catch a view of the Earth like they've never seen before. Flights are expected to begin in 2005.

• Edge of Space Flight: 3 million points earns a trip in a MiG-25 at Mach 2.5. Passengers reach an altitude of 80,000 feet and can see the curvature of the Earth.

• Zero-Gravity Flight: 1 million points offers an experience in a specially-outfitted jet aircraft used for training astronauts and testing equipment in a weightless environment.

Operations take place at space and aviation facilities -- including the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia -- around the world and include onsite training, tours and accommodations.

For details about Space Adventures' programs, visit www.spaceadventures.com.

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