Space tourist-to-be Richard Garriott is taking requests for what may be the ultimate orbital postcards from the International Space Station (ISS).
Garriott, an American computer game developer training for an October launch, will take custom photographs of Earth for about 200 paying subscribers under a partnership with the ?Earth Portraits? program of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) and the space history and memorabilia Web site collectSPACE.com.
?The Association of Space Explorers' Earth Portraits allows me a way to share the excitement of seeing the Earth from orbit with enthusiasts from around the world,? Garriott, 46, said in a statement. ?I look forward to taking their pictures from space.?
Based in Austin, Texas, Garriott is paying about $30 million for his planned Oct. 12 launch to the ISS with two professional astronauts under a deal brokered with Russia?s Federal Space Agency by the Virginia-based firm Space Adventures. He plans to perform a series of experiments and educational outreach projects during his flight in addition to the Earth Portraits program.
Garriott developed the Ultima online and Tabula Rasa computer games, and is the son of retired NASA astronaut Owen Garriott.
The non-profit ASE is a group of 300 flown astronauts and cosmonauts from 32 countries. As part of the Earth Portraits program, a limited number of 200 subscribers can pay $500 a piece to have Garriott snap a photo of any location on Earth, so long as it is visible from the ISS during his week-long stay. The actual latitude and longitude of the location is required to request an Earth Portrait, with all reservations due by May 23.
?The view of Earth from space has been captivating astronauts and cosmonauts since Yuri Gagarin exclaimed 'I see Earth! It is so beautiful!' on his trailblazing flight in April 1961,? said Andy Turnage, ASE executive director. ?We are proud to be the first to offer the public their chance to own unique photos of their hometowns or other favorite locales on Earth."
After his return to Earth, Garriott will autograph each photograph and include a brief personalized message of the subscriber?s choice.
The 8-by-10 inch photograph is expected to cover an area of about 18 by 28 miles (30 by 45 km) at a resolution of about 100 feet (30 meters) and be delivered in February 2009, program officials said. Each subscriber will also be entered in a bonus raffle to win a memento that flew to space with Garriott, they added.
Proceeds from the program will go to the ASE?s environmental and educational programs, as well as to the refinement of the ?Windows on Earth? software that Garriott will used to find his Earth Portrait targets.
"Many times I have gone outside my home to spot the space station flying overhead,? collectSPACE.com editor Robert Pearlman told SPACE.com. CollectSPACE.com is a content partner of SPACE.com on spaceflight history. ?What an amazing feeling it will be, knowing that on one of those passes while Richard is up there, he'll be looking down trying to photograph me... well, at least my hometown.?
Garriott is documenting his mission at his personal Web site: http://www.richardinspace.com.
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