October 10, 2008
Space Tourist Downplays Rough Ride Before Launch
U.S. space tourist Richard Garriott said he was confident ahead of Sunday's launch into space on a Russian spaceship and downplayed concerns over a bumpy ride back to Earth.
Previous crews returning from the International Space Station have referred to rough landings and massive gravitational force after Russia's Soyuz capsules slid off into dangerous "ballistic re-entry" twice in a row over the past year.
Garriott, who earned his success through becoming a video game mogul, has paid more than $30 million for his ticket into space.
"I don't think we are going to have one (ballistic landing), but if we did, it would not concern me. It's still considered a pretty normal re-entry. I am confident my return will be safe."
Garriott, son of NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, will travel to the ISS to conduct scientific experiments alongside U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke and Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov.
The blast off is due on 1:03 p.m. (1:03 a.m. EDT) on Sunday. He will travel back with an outgoing ISS crew on October 24.
Garriott's spaceship was fixed at its launch pad on Friday -- the very venue used by Yuri Gagarin in 1961 when he became the first man in space.
"I am not particularly apprehensive or nervous because this is a very reliable rocket," said Gariott's father, gesturing at the Soyuz spacecraft, Russian and U.S. flags painted on its sleek body.
"He is very well prepared. He has trained for almost a year with the Russians."
His son's training, mostly carried out at a space center near Moscow, was overshadowed by a sharp deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations over Moscow's war with Georgia but Garriott said politics was of little interest to scientists.
"It has had an exactly zero impact on my dealings with the Russian side. But I have definitely felt some tensions coming across from the political side of the U.S. but even that has been minor," he said.
"If you look at the cosmonauts or astronauts, every one of them makes it very clear: we believe that space is a non political shared environment."
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