The clock is ticking for young artists hoping to draw up an emblem for the next paying tourist to visit the International Space Station (ISS).
American computer game developer Richard Garriott, a multimillionaire training to launch toward the space station this fall, is looking for an original design that could serve as a student mission patch or t-shirt in a contest organized by the Challenger Center for Space Science Education.
Launched in late March, the art competition is open to students of all ages across the U.S. to submit a design that reflects the ?the adventure and discovery of spaceflight,? center officials said in a statement, adding that final entries are due by April 18. While submissions will be collected into a design gallery, the winning emblem could ultimately fly in space, they added.
Garriott, 46, is paying $30 million for an October launch to the station under an agreement brokered with Russia?s Federal Space Agency by the Virginia-based U.S. space tourism firm Space Adventures. His mother Helen is an artist, while his father Owen is a retired NASA astronaut who flew to NASA?s Skylab space station in 1973, and later on a space shuttle mission.
?I feel that I was very much inspired by both of my parents, my father from a science and technology standpoint, of course, but [also] my mother as a professional artist,? Garriott told SPACE.com in a recent interview.
The ?Student Patch Contest? is one of several educational-themed activities planned for Garriott?s flight in conjunction with the Arlington, Va.-based Challenger Center and outlets in the United Kingdom. Garriott has said that he hopes his flight will spur youth interest in space and science through activities before launch, aboard the space station and after his return.
At noon (EDT) on April 21, he is expected to hold a live webcast with students at the Challenger Center to answer student-submitted questions from the Russian cosmonaut training center in Star City, Russia. Students have until April 18 to submit questions for the space tourist, center officials said.
Garriott said he hopes to take artwork along on his spaceflight, some of it created by his mother, and host an orbital art show aboard the space station. He also hopes to create some art of his own.
?I?m not particularly a fine artist myself,? he said. ?I want to create something that demonstrates properties of zero [gravity] and hopefully has some visual interest also.?
His creations, he hopes, will return to Earth and be sold in auctions to raise funds for charities.
While Garriott must wait until October to launch to the space station, his return ride home is gearing up for a Tuesday liftoff.
The Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft that will ferry Garriott back to Earth after his space station stay is slated to launch tomorrow at 7:16 a.m. EDT (1116 GMT) from the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. South Korea?s first astronaut, So-yeon Yi, and Expedition 17 cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko will launch aboard the Soyuz spacecraft.
Garriott will return home with Kononenko and Volkov, who by coincidence is also the son of a professional cosmonaut, making their landing this fall the first with two second-generation spaceflyers aboard. Yi will return to Earth with the station's outgoing crewmembers when they land on April 19.
Click here for more information on the rules and application information of the ?Student Patch Contest? under way by the Challenger Center and Richard Garriott. Students can click here to submit questions for the live webcast with Garriott.
?Garriott is documenting his mission at his personal Web site: http://www.richardinspace.com.
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