Successful Lift Off For US Space Tourist

Video game mogul Richard Garriott took off into space on Sunday aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft, which successfully lifted off at 3:01 a.m. EST from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan under clear weather.

The U.S. space tourist paid $35 million to accompany U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke and Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov on the mission  to the International Space Station (ISS).

Russian space officials said the Soyuz rocket had safely reached its orbit, and would dock with the ISS in about two days.

Garriott’s father, Owen, a former NASA astronaut selected for his scientific background in physics, witnessed the lift off from an observation platform alongside Garriott’s girlfriend, Kelly Miller, who shed tears of joy and relief at the successful launch.

“I’m elated, elated,” Owen Garriott, the first American to see his child follow in his footsteps and reach space, told the Associated Press.

“They’re in orbit, that’s good.”

“I am very happy for him. It is one of the things he really wanted to do,” Miller told Reuters, as others celebrated the launch with Champagne.

“I can see he is really enjoying it like a little kid in the candy shop.”

“He made it, he made it into orbit. It is marvelous,” said Owen Garriott, who spent 60 days in space in 1973 and another ten days in 1983.

Richard Garriott will now spend the next 10 days in space before returning to Earth aboard a Soyuz re-entry vehicle with the ISS’s former crew. The three-person capsule has malfunctioned during its last two flights. In April, the re-entry vehicle landed 260 miles off course after explosive bolts failed to detonate prior to re-entry, sending the Soyuz into a steep descent known as a ballistic landing.  And last year, a capsule carrying Malaysia’s first astronaut also made a “ballistic” landing, also caused by malfunctioning bolts.  

Garriott, a Texan who made millions designing video games, dreamed of space as a child but later learned he could not become a NASA astronaut because of his poor eyesight.

Image Caption: Expedition 18 launches aboard a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA TV

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