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23 Sep, 2008 19:09

Space tourist to follow his father into orbit

Final preparations for a mission to the International Space Station are underway in Star City in the Moscow region. Aboard the rocket will be an American space tourist who hopes to revive declining interest in space by showing it can be profitable &n

Richard Garriott will become the 6th tourist to travel to the International Space Station, and the second in his family. The 47-year-old is the son of NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, who has made two flights into orbit. He will become the first ever American to follow his father into space, and the second in the world after Russian cosmonaut Sergey Volkov. Volkov has been in the ISS since April and will return to Earth together with Garriott – two second-generation astronauts descending together will be another world first!

“All children grow up believing at least for some period of time that they want to eventually fly to if not work in space. And for me that belief was much deeper because not only was my father an astronaut but I grew up around NASA with many other astronauts and there was a constant flow of scientific experiments being brought into my home,” Garriott recalled in an interview with RT.

Indeed, calling Garriott a 'tourist' may seem a little dismissive. The American has been training in Russia for a year, and plans to perform an array of experiments while in orbit.

“I have quite a full scientific agenda. And I am doing the work not only on my behalf with businesses which my father and I have put together, but for other space agencies as well. So, as an example, probably the most complex experiment I’ll be performing involves protein crystal growth, which is an experimental area begun about the time of my father’s second space flight by Space Lab 1 on STS-9 [in 1983],” Richard Garriott said.

More than fifty Russian experiments, as well as other joint tests will be carried out on the flight. “Experiments will be performed in all kinds of areas such as biotechnology, biology, geophysics and of course ecology,” cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov says.

As well as performing experiments, Garriott is going to be in charge of the communication systems of the ISS. He’s also planning to lecture from orbit and perform video and photo shooting.

Garriott has passed a pre-flight examination, receiving an excellent mark, just like the two other members of his crew – Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov and U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke.

The businessman paid thirty million dollars for the chance to join the 18th mission to the ISS. According to experts, plans are in the pipeline for a private Russian space tourism venture.

“The Space Adventures Company has placed an order with Russia's ROSKOSMOS company for a manned Soyuz spacecraft that will be used for private space travels. It is most likely to be operated by a professional Russian pilot and two tourists,” Pavel Sharov, a space travel expert said.

Richard Garriott made his fortune in online gaming as a games designer, programmer and producer. Back in the 1980s he was behind the success of the cult Ultima Online series. He is also responsible for such hits as Lineage and Lineage II: The Chaotic Chronicle. His latest project is Tabula Rasa.

He will take off for the ISS from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on October 12 on Soyuz TMA-13 and return to Earth on October 23.