Space Tourist Sets Sights on Orbital Lessons

Next Space Tourist Takes Break from Spaceflight Training
American computer game developer Richard Garriott undergoes a spin chair test during his first round of spaceflight training.
(Image: © www.richardinspace.com /Space Adventures.)

HOUSTON - Spacetourist-in-training Richard Garriott hopes to hold class in orbit when he reachesthe International Space Station (ISS) this fall.

Garriott,46, is planning a series of interactive webcasts and other activities with U.S.students in conjunction with the Challenger Center for Space Science Educationto spark interest in human spaceflight and science.

Hailingfrom Austin, Texas, Garriott is an Americancomputer game developer and the son of retired NASA astronaut OwenGarriott. He is paying about $30 million for the chance to launch toward theISS aboard a Russian rocket in October and will be the first second-generationU.S. spaceflyer once he reaches orbit.

?I'm a bigbeliever in education being the key to the future for all of us here on planetEarth,? Garriott told SPACE.com in a recent interview. ?And I think inparticularly in our age, the interest or devotion to space science or sciencein general is relatively lacking, so anything I can do to kind of help spurthat on is time well spent.?

The ?GarriottScience Challenge,? a cooperative effort between the space tourist and theArlington, Va.-based Challenger Center, a 50-center education group founded bythe families of the astronauts lost during NASA?s 1986 Challenger accident. Garriottand center officials announced the joint endeavor during a Tuesday event hereat the Houston Museum of Natural Science?s Challenger Learning Center.

?Likefather, like son,? said June Scobee Rodgers, widow of Challenger?s 51-L missioncommander Dick Scobee and the Challenger Center?s founding chairman, in astatement. ?Dr. Owen Garriott also taught student science lessons from space onhis Skylab mission, as Richard plans to do on his flight.?

Garriott?s father Owen flew on the third expedition to the U.S.Skylab space station in 1973 before later flying on a NASA shuttle.

The youngerGarriott will ride a Russian-built Soyuz rocket to the ISS on a plannednine-day orbital flight under an agreement brokered with Russia?s Federal SpaceAgency by the Virginia-based tourism firm Space Adventures. His is the sixthpaying visitor to the ISS and plans to conduct protein crystal experiments and recreatehis father?s Earth Skylab Earth observation photographs to demonstrate how theplanet has changed after more than three decades.

Studentoutreach

For theGarriott Science Challenge, the space tourist is planning a series ofmission-related podcasts and interactive webcasts to discuss his spaceflight.He is also drawing up flight experiments that can be replicated by students onEarth, such as using everyday objects to demonstrate fundamental concepts inphysics. The sessions are expected to be available in digital format at theChallenger Center Web site, center officials said.

Once inspace, Garriott has said he hopes to speak with students via ham radiosessions. The effort is aimed at continuing the educational outreach begun by NASAastronaut Barbara Morgan, a former Idaho schoolteacher who flew to the ISSin August 2007 during NASA?s STS-118 mission, center officials said. Morganalso served as the backup for Teacher-in-Space Christa McAuliffe, who was amember of Challenger?s seven-astronaut crew during its ill-fated 1986 launch.

TheChallenger Center effort is the latest education-themed announcement concerningGarriott?s upcoming spaceflight. Earlier this year, he launchedthe ?Space Challenge!? in the United Kingdom, which calls on students to contemplatethe nature of private spaceflight and design experiments Garriott could performin space.

?So we'vejust announced the first step in my fairly broad educational agenda which wasthis space challenge for students to be able to actually help proposeexperiments that I can perform directly in space,? Garriott said in aninterview.

Garriott recentlyreturned to the U.S. after a six-weektraining session at Russia?s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City.He is slated to launch toward the ISS with two professional astronauts on Oct.12 and return to Earth with two Russian cosmonauts, including Sergei Volkov ?the first second-generation cosmonaut to fly in space.

Volkov,commander of the space station?s Expedition 17 mission, is scheduled to launchon April 8 with flight engineer Oleg Kononenko and Yi So-Yeon, South Korea?sfirst astronaut.

Click hereto learn more about the Garriott Science Challenge from the Challenger Centerfor Space Science Education.

RichardGarriott is chronicling his spaceflight training and orbital mission at hispersonal Web site: http://www.richardinspace.com.

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