Before China sends its third batch of astronauts into space aboard Shenzhou VII in two years, at least one Chinese civilian may follow in the zero-gravity footsteps of colonels Yang Liwei, Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng . A Hong Kong-registered space travel agency, which arranges packages offered by US-based Space Adventures, said it was hoping to send the first Chinese civilian into space by the end of 2007. Jiang Fang , president of the Hong Kong Space Tour Corporation, said more than 100 mainlanders had contacted the company since it was set up last year. Citing a Sina.com survey in which 70 per cent of respondents were interested in soaring above the Earth's atmosphere, Mr Jiang said China offered a huge potential market for space tourism. He also said more than 10 people had expressed interest in holidaying in space. 'Space tourism may not be very popular in the next three to five years. But we are confident that a lot more people in China would want to holiday in space in five to 10 years,' Mr Jiang said from Beijing. So far, a Shenzhen-based businessman identified by his family name Jiang has sealed a deal worth more than 1 million yuan to take a suborbital flight. The package is the cheapest of the options offered by Space Adventures. For 20 million yuan, joyriders can sign up to orbit the Earth and, for 100 million yuan, they will be able to dock at the International Space Station (ISS). 'Most people are interested in suborbital flights because it's more affordable. Only a few inquiries were made about the space station package,' Mr Jiang said. A suborbital flight does not take the passengers into orbit but does take them to an altitude of 100km, where they can experience several minutes of weightlessness, an uninterrupted view of the galaxy and a vista of the curved Earth below. Gregory Olsen, who has just returned from a trip to the ISS with a Russian crew, will be on a promotional visit to Beijing next week. The New Jersey millionaire was the third tourist to spend time at the space station.