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: © www.richardinspace.com/Space 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 SPACE.com. ?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: www.richardinspace.com.

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