Former Astronaut's Son Poised for Space Tourist Trek

Former Astronaut's Son Poised for Space Tourist Trek
U.S. space tourist Richard Garriott gestures before the final test in a mock-up of a Soyuz TMA space craft in Star City outside Moscow on Friday, Sept. 19, 2008. (Image credit: AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel.)

STAR CITY, Russia (AP) - Asa computer game designer, he's made millions creating fantasy worlds. Now,Richard Garriott will live out his own fantasy of spaceflight. Garriott, 47,will become the first child of a U.S. astronaut to travel to space when hetakes his $30 million seat aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule set to lift off Oct.12 for the international space station.

Garriott followsin the footsteps of his father, Owen Garriott, a two-time space travelerwho took extensive photographs of the Earth's surface during his stay on theU.S. orbital station Skylab in 1973.

Using data from the Skylabphoto archive, the younger Garriott plans to take photos to record how theEarth's surface has changed in the 35 years since.

While expecting to findnegative examples, "I believe it will be possible to find evidence of someconservation success stories," he said Tuesday at a news conference withhis Soyuz crewmates, Russian Yuri Lonchakov and American Michael Fincke.

Garriott won't be the firstperson to follow a parent into space. Sergei Volkov, son of formerRussian cosmonaut Alexander Volkov, has been living on the space stationsince April and is slated to return to Earth with Garriott after the American'sshort stay.

The quest has taken theAustin, Texas, resident halfway around the world to Star City, outside Moscow,where he has spent a year in grueling preparations for the 10-day trip.

Every youngster dreams ofgoing to space, Garriott said.

"For me, growing upwith a fatherwho was an astronaut and neighbors who were all either astronauts or NASAengineers, that dream sunk in more deeply," he said.

And it only gatheredmomentum when he was told as an adolescent that poor eyesight meant he would neverbe selected as a NASA astronaut - "which was like being told I was nolonger going to be able to be a member of the club that everyone I knew was apart of."

"I very quicklydetermined that I would not take 'no' for an answer," Garriott said.

A few years later, Garriottbought his first computer when his father matched the money he raised as acomputer-store sales clerk. And as his career creating computer games took off,he began investing in the development of private space flight.

He is a board member andinvestor in Space Adventures, Ltd., a U.S.-based company that has organizedflights aboard Russian craft for five other millionaires including the firstpaying space tourist, California businessman Dennis Tito, in 2001.

Garriott plans to carryout experiments during his voyage, including one involving protein crystalgrowth, on behalf of companies that have footed a "meaningfulpercentage" of the bill.

Garriott's father, 77, willcome to Russia to monitor his son's mission. He has helped prepare Garriott'sexperiments - and given the younger man some less scientific advice.

"He's very careful tosay, 'make sure you take the time to just sit at the window and take a look atthe view, 'cause it's mighty spectacular,'" Garriott said.

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