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Former Astronaut's Son Signs on as Next Space Tourist

Former Astronaut's Son Signs on as Next Space Tourist
American computer game developer Richard Garriott floats in weightlessness inside a Russian Sokol spacesuit during a airplane ride to celebrate the upcoming release of his new game 'Tabula Rasa.' (Image credit: <a href="http://www.richardinspace.com">www.richardinspace.com</a>/Space Adventures.)

A retired NASA astronaut's son has signed on for a multimillion-dollar trek to the International Space Station (ISS) next year, a space tourism firm announced Friday.

American computer game developer Richard Garriott will pay at least $30 million to launch toward the space station aboard a Russian Soyuz spaceship in October 2008, said the Virginia-based firm Space Adventures, which brokered the flight with Russia's Federal Space Agency.

"Journeying to space has been a dream of mine since I was young," Garriott wrote on his Web site www.richardinspace.com. "This is hardly surprising since my father, Owen Garriott, is a former NASA astronaut who participated in such missions as Skylab and Spacelab-1 in the 1970s and '80s."

Garriott's father Owen, 76, joined NASA in 1965 as one of the agency's first six scientist astronauts. He spent just over 59 days in Earth orbit as part of NASA's Skylab 3 crew to the U.S. Skylab space station in 1973, then flew on the 10-day STS-9 flight aboard the Columbia space shuttle in 1983.

The younger Garriott's launch will mark the first time an American astronaut's child has reached space. If all goes according to plan, he will be greeted aboard the ISS by Expedition 17 commander Sergei Volkov, a Russian cosmonaut himself the son of veteran spaceflyer Alexander Volkov.

"I am so pleased that he is able to embrace this himself and that he is dedicating his flight to research," Owen Garriott said of his son in a statement. "I am very proud of him."

Richard Garriott, 46, is expected to spend about a week aboard the ISS during a 10-day spaceflight. He plans to perform science experiments as part of commercial agreements with private firms, including a series of protein crystallization experiments for the biotechnology firm ExtremoZyme, Inc. founded by his father.

"I am dedicating my spaceflight to science," Garriott said in a statement. "We need to be adventurous in mind and stimulate our intellects to answer today's most daunting scientific questions and to invent tomorrow's technological marvels."

Residing in Austin, Texas, Garriott developed the Ultima computer game series and co-founded the Origins Systems computer game company with his brother Robert. He also co-founded the North American branch of the online game developer NCsoft.

Garriott's 2008 spaceflight will mark the sixth to the ISS by a paying visitor. Space Adventures has brokered the flights of all five previous space tourists, beginning with American entrepreneur Dennis Tito in 2001.

The most recent private spaceflyer, American Charles Simonyi — a Microsoft co-founder — paid up to $25 million for a 14-day flight to the ISS last April.

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Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the Space.com team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.