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Sooner Astronaut’s Son to Pay to Orbit

August 3, 2008

By MARCIA DUNN

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The world’s next space tourist, a computer game wizard, said Wednesday he’s spending the bulk of his fortune on his $30 million adventure this fall.

Richard Garriott will make history as the first child of an American astronaut to rocket into orbit, and his dad will keep in touch with him during his time in space.

Garriott is set to fly aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the international space station Oct. 12. Speaking at a news conference in Houston on Wednesday, he said: “To be frank, this price tag is the majority of my wealth.”

The 47-year-old Garriott said space flight was a goal he’d been working toward for much of his life. Poor eyesight ruined whatever shot he might have had at becoming a professional astronaut.

“But versus being crushed and giving up on that dream, that just set me on the path of saying, ‘Oh, wait a minute, you can’t tell me no,’” he said. “Literally, throughout my entire professional career, I’ve been investing in the privatization of space. … so my father, he was not shocked at all to see me pursuing this.”

His father, Owen Garriott, 77, an Oklahoman, was a NASA astronaut who visited America’s first space station, Skylab, in 1973.

The elder Garriott, who is from Enid, will be at Russian Mission Control outside Moscow during the 10-day mission. The two hope to speak frequently. Garriott calls his father “my chief scientist” and says he helped develop the science and education experiments that will be taken to the space station.

Father and son also will speak via ham radio. Owen Garriott made the first ham radio call from space during a shuttle flight in 1983.

The soon-to-be space tourist is spending this week at Johnson Space Center learning about the space station. Traveling with him to the orbiting outpost will be American astronaut Mike Fincke and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov, experienced space travelers who will spend six months up there.

Fincke says he has no qualms flying with an amateur.

“I can see he really understands the importance of what we’re doing with space and that he understands the operational side of things,” he said.

As a Texas computer game developer, Richard Garriott has specialized in medieval fantasy games, but he is moving more into science fiction and outer space. He hopes to connect in space with some of his “gamer” followers by sending messages down to them.

He’s also carrying with him “the immortality drive,” a computer project that will include a list of humanity’s greatest achievements, digitized human DNA and personal messages from Earthlings. The program will be stored on the space station in case calamity were to one day wipe out Earth.

Garriott, a fan of haunted houses, doesn’t anticipate being scared at launch or landing, just “a little more trepidation” than usual.

Originally published by MARCIA DUNN Associated Press.

(c) 2008 Tulsa World. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.




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