American space tourist Richard Garriott is settling into life aboard the International Space Station and learning firsthand the lessons learned by his astronaut father.
Garriott, 47, is a computer game pioneer and the son of former NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, a two-time spaceflyer who visited the U.S. space station Skylab and flew aboard the shuttle Columbia.
It was while aboard Columbia in 1983 that the elder Garriott used a ham radio to call Richard from space, and this week the son returned the favor.
?I?m very excited, Dad, to be able to ham contact with you,? Richard Garriott radioed down to his father at Russia?s Mission Control Center outside Moscow this week. ?I think it?s an interesting and historical moment.?
Garriott is the first American second-generation astronaut, though he?s flying alongside the space station?s Expedition 17 commander Sergei Volkov, son of famed Russian cosmonaut Alexander Volkov. He is paying $30 million for his 10-day spaceflight under a deal between Russia?s Federal Space Agency and the Vienna, Va.-based firm Space Adventures.
?We?re having a very nice time up here and having a beautiful view of Russia right now,? Garriott told his father.
Garriott is the sixth paying visitor to the space station. He launched into orbit on Oct. 12 aboard a Russian Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft ferrying two professional astronauts to the orbiting lab. Joining him on the trip were Expedition 18 commander Michael Fincke, of NASA, and Russian flight engineer Yury Lonchakov.
The spaceflying trio arrived at the station on Tuesday, with Garriott due to return to Earth on Oct. 23 with Volkov and Expedition 17 flight engineer Oleg Kononenko who are completing their own six-month mission. Fincke and Lonchakov are replacing the returning cosmonauts and joined NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff already aboard.
?It was so much fun watching him look at Earth for the first time in the Soyuz on our way up,? Fincke said during a televised Thursday interview, adding that Garriott was quick to learn the fundamentals of eating, drinking and bathing in space. ?He?s picked up all the basics really quickly and I think he?s really enjoying his mission so far.?
On Friday, Garriott held a radio webcast with children at Challenger Centers across the country to answer questions as part of his educational campaign. He has packed his mission with a host of educational outreach events, science experiments and Earth observation targets.
Garriott told students that he did not suffer from motion sickness during his first taste of weightlessness after reaching orbit, but the lack of gravity did cause a fluid shift that gave him headaches at first.
?I?m finally beginning to adjust and I?m only about five days into my 10 days in space,? he said.
Garriott compared floating in weightlessness to the sensation of scuba diving, only without the water, and compared the spacious interior of the space station to the main cabin of a 747 jumbo jet. He is the first space tourist to visit the station since the addition new rooms and laboratories over the last year.
?Here on board, we?re kind of spread out,? Garriott told his father, adding that the extra room makes for comfortable sleeping arrangements.? Everybody kind of takes a module to themselves. ?We have a pretty sizeable room, and of course in zero gravity it?s very, very comfortable as you know.?
In addition to enjoying his spaceflight, Garriott is hard at work with this many science experiments and enjoying the camaraderie of his fellow astronauts.
?He seems to be having a great time and we?re having a great time hosting him up here,? Chamitoff said of Garriott. ?It?s been a lot of fun so far just to have six people on board and he?s very much part of the crew right now.?
Richard Garriott is chronicling his spaceflight training and mission at his personal Web site: www.richardinspace.com.
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