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Richard Garriott enters private astronaut club

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October 14, 2008

Soyuz Spacecraft
 Image: NASA / Space Adventures

Soyuz Spacecraft Image: NASA / Space Adventures

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October 14, 2008 Millionaire video game designer Richard Garriott has made history by becoming the world’s first second-generation American astronaut to set off into outer space. Unlike his NASA astronaut father, Owen Garriott, Richard has made his journey courtesy of space tourism provider, Space Adventures.

Richard Garriott and his crew successfully launched on October 12 aboard a Soyuz TMA spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan en route to the International Space Station (ISS). "Today, my dream of following in my father's footsteps to explore new frontiers is being realized," said Richard Garriott.

The Expedition 18 crew includes NASA astronaut Michael Fincke and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov. In order to be part of the flight team, Garriott was required to complete a cosmonaut-training program at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center located in Star City, Russia. Garriott says he’s dedicated the flight to scientific and environmental research, and also educational outreach. He said he hopes to “be able to excite students throughout the world and demonstrate how far our dreams can take us."

As part of the flight, Garriott will communicate with students associated with the Challenger Center for Space Science Education via a NASA-sponsored teleconference, two HAM radio downlinks in cooperation with Amateur Radio on the ISS, and through videotaped experiments that can be replicated on Earth. He will also conduct two science experiments designed by primary and secondary students from the United Kingdom in partnership with the British National Space Center.

Garriott’s scientific research will include a series of experiments that will study the physical impact of spaceflight on astronauts. In cooperation with NASA, he will observe the reaction of the eyes to low and high pressure in a microgravity environment; the effects of spaceflight on the human immune system; and astronauts' sleep/wake patterns and sleep characteristics. Additionally, in cooperation with the European Space Agency, Garriott will perform a series of experiments that will include the study of early detection of osteoporosis; vestibular adaptation to G-force transitions; and the occurrence of lower back pain. Finally, Garriott plans to photograph a number of ecologically significant places on Earth to be compared with the shots taken 35 years ago by his father.

Garriott will also undertake a number of commercial activities during the mission, including experiments for a biotechnology company co-founded by his father; testing the Seiko Spring Drive Spacewalk in a microgravity; and conducting a physics experiment while on the ISS as part of an initiative sponsored by DHL.

Garriott, who made his fortune in the video game industry, has embarked on other unique travel adventures including searching for meteorites on the continent of Antarctica, tracking mountain gorillas in Rwanda, canoeing down the Amazon, deep ocean hydrothermal vent expeditions and dives to the Titanic. Garriott’s space flight is only the sixth privately funded spaceflight from Space Adventures, the first of which took place in 2001 with the launch of Dennis Tito.

The mission is due to dock at the ISS in just a few hours. Updates and NASA live feeds are available at Richardinspace.com.

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