Next Space Tourist Begins Training for Spaceflight

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: Adventures.)

An Americanspace tourist bound for the International Space Station (ISS) has beguntraining for his fall launch aboard a Russian rocket.

Computergame developer Richard Garriott isspending six weeks in Russiato undergo initial medical checks and the first round of training for flightaboard a Soyuz spacecraft.

?This yearis definitely where all my priorities and schedules have rotated to where spacebecomes the top priority and terrestrial activities become secondary,? Garriott told ?There?s no aspect of theactual training that I perceive that?s going to be scary or intimidating, Ijust look at it as going to be really smooth from here.?

Garriott,46, is paying about $30 million to launch to the ISS with two professionalspaceflyers this fall under an agreement between Russia?s Federal Space Agency andthe Virginia-based firm Space Adventures. He is the creator of the Ultimaseries of online computer games and is contemplating $15 million spacewalk asan additional mission perk.

The sonof former NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, who flewaboard the U.S. Skylab station and a U.S.shuttle, the younger Garriott is set to become thefirst second-generation U.S.spaceflyer and the sixth paying visitor to the ISSduring his mission.

?We havebeen having about five e-mails from each other a day,? Garriottsaid of his father, who will serve as chief scientist for his upcoming flight.?My dad will even tell you this is the hardest he?s worked since he left thespace program.?

Garriottplans to spend about nine days aboard the space station, during which time hewill perform protein crystallization and Earth observation experiments, some ofwhich include photographing sites his father observed from Skylabin 1973.

But beforelaunching, Garriott must educate himself in theworkings of Russian Soyuz spacecraft and the ISS, not to mention the Russianlanguage.

?I?ve neverlearned a second language before,? he said. ?You just want to be able toparticipate fully and competently and enjoyably, and I?m gaining confidencethat I can do that.?

On Sunday, Garriott expected to meet with ISS Expedition 18 commanderMichael Fincke, with whom he?ll launch to the stationlater this year, as well as South Korean astronaut KoSan. Ko,South Korea?sfirst astronaut, will launch toward the space stationon April 8 with the outpost?s Expedition 17 crew.

Garriott said he also hoped to meet with Russiancosmonaut Sergei Volkov, commander of Expedition17. Like Garriott, Volkov is a second-generation spaceflyer who, if all goesaccording to plan, will return to Earth with the U.S. space tourist later this fall.

?I?m reallygoing to work hard to get a chance to meet him before he flies,? Garriott said.

Richard Garriott is chronicling his spaceflight training andmission at his personal Web site:

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. 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. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.