September 23, 2008

Next Space Tourist Will Be Former US Astronauts’ Son

Richard Garriott, a multi-millionaire computer game designer, will become the first child of a U.S. astronaut to travel to space when he takes his $30 million seat aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule set to lift off Oct. 12 for the International Space Station.

His father, Owen Garriott, was a two-time space traveler who took extensive photographs of the Earth's surface during his stay on the U.S. orbital station Skylab in 1973.

The younger Garriott plans to take photos using data from the Skylab photo archive to record how the Earth's surface has changed in the 35 years since.

"I believe it will be possible to find evidence of some conservation success stories," he said Tuesday at a news conference with his Soyuz crewmates, Russian Yuri Lonchakov and American Michael Fincke.

However, he won't be the first person to follow a parent into space. Sergei Volkov, son of former Russian cosmonaut Alexander Volkov, has been living on the space station since April and is slated to return to Earth with Garriott after the American's short stay.

Garriott, an Austin, Texas resident, has spent a year in grueling preparations for the 10-day trip halfway around the world in Star City, outside Moscow.

Garriott said every youngster dreams of going to space,.

"For me, growing up with a father who was an astronaut and neighbors who were all either astronauts or NASA engineers, that dream sunk in more deeply," he said.

He was told as an adolescent that poor eyesight meant he would never be selected as a NASA astronaut - "which was like being told I was no longer going to be able to be a member of the club that everyone I knew was a part of."

"I very quickly determined that I would not take 'no' for an answer," Garriott said.

Garriott bought his first computer a few years later when his father matched the money he raised as a computer-store sales clerk. And as his career creating computer games took off, he began investing in the development of private space flight.

He is a board member and investor in Space Adventures, Ltd., a U.S.-based company that has organized flights aboard Russian craft for five other millionaires including the first paying space tourist, California businessman Dennis Tito, in 2001.

During his voyage, Garriott plans to carry out experiments, including one involving protein crystal growth, on behalf of companies that have footed a "meaningful percentage" of the bill.

Garriott's father will come to Russia to monitor his son's mission. He has helped prepare Garriott's experiments - and given the younger man some less scientific advice.

"He's very careful to say, 'make sure you take the time to just sit at the window and take a look at the view, 'cause it's mighty spectacular,'" Garriott said.


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