October 14, 2008

Russian, U.S. Astronauts Sons Meet In Space

The Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft carrying two crewmates and one U.S. space tourist docked with the International Space Station on Tuesday.

Docking occurred slightly ahead of schedule over Kazakhstan at 0826 GMT.

Crewmembers Mike Fincke and Yuri Lonchakov were joined by U.S. space tourist Richard Garriott, a 47-year-old computer games director who paid about $30m for a 10-day trip to the ISS.

Spaceman Sergei Volkov welcomed Garriott on board the ISS after the hatches were opened between the capsule and the station at 0955 GMT. Volkov -- whose cosmonaut father was orbiting the earth when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 -- welcomed Garriott with a hug.

Garriott's father Owen spent 60 days on the Skylab station in 1973. He applauded as he watched the docking from Russian Mission Control outside Moscow.

"I'm pleased everything is going smoothly. It's looking great and they are starting off on a fascinating new adventure," Owen said.

"There was not a lot of nervousness today or during the launch. We were confident it would go well," he said.

NASA said Garriott and Volkov are first children of previous space adventurers to meet in orbit.

Space tourist Garriott, U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke and Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on the Kazakh steppe on Sunday.

Fincke will serve as commander of the six-month Expedition 18 mission which will focus on preparing the station to house six crew members on longer-duration missions.

Garriott will return to Earth on Oct. 23 with Volkov, who has been at the station since April.

Mr. Garriott will occupy some of his time taking photos to record how the Earth's surface has changed in the 35 years since his father's voyage. Photography on the station is not easy as the movement of the platform during exposure has a tendency to smear telephoto images. The camera has to be tracked in time with the movement to get a sharp picture.


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