Video game developer at space station


Richard Garriott was greeted by another man who has turned space flight into a family tradition: Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, whose father is a decorated veteran of the Soviet space program.

Both proud fathers -- Owen Garriott with a U.S. flag patch on his jacket and Alexander Volkov with a Soviet medal pinned to his chest -- watched on a screen at Russian Mission Control outside Moscow as the Soyuz craft that delivered Garriott homed in on the station and docked flawlessly.

"It's looking great and they are starting off on a fascinating new adventure," Owen Garriott told The Associated Press.

About 90 minutes later, Garriott and his two crewmates floated through a hatch and onto the station, where they got bear hugs from Sergei Volkov and the other two men aboard.

"Congratulations on leaving the cradle of Earth," Garriott's brother Robert said in a video linkup with the station.

Garriott, 47, paid a reported US$30 million to fulfill his childhood dream of space travel. Growing up steeped in space flight, his determination was only strengthened when he was told his poor eyesight would prevent him from becoming a NASA astronaut like his father.

"Hi, Peter Pan," his girlfriend, Kelly Miller, said during the video link. Garriott chuckled and said, "I can fly."

Garriott flew up to the station with Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov and U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke, who are scheduled to spend six months in orbit. Garriott is due to return to Earth in a Soyuz capsule on Oct. 24 with Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, who have been there since April.

"Oleg, you need a haircut," a Russian space official told Kononenko, getting a laugh from Mission Control crowd. "Come home."

Before they do, Garriott will spend 10 days conducting experiments -- some for sponsors that helped foot the bill. He will photograph Earth to measure environmental damage and the effects of conservation since his father took extensive pictures from the U.S. station Skylab in 1973.

"There's a lot of work to do," said Owen Garriott, who returned to space in 1983 and was glad to see his son achieve his dream.

"I never thought he would have the chance, 30 years ago," said Garriott.

Richard Garriott -- who says he spent a large portion of his wealth on the trip -- is a board member and investor in Space Adventures, Ltd., a U.S.-based company that has organized flights to the space station aboard Russian craft for five other paying customers since 2001.

Sergei Volkov, the first person to follow a parent into space, took a more traditional route. The 35-year-old entered Russia's air force academy after graduating from high school in Star City, the cosmonaut training facility town outside Moscow, and became a pilot.

His father flew three space missions and was on the Mir station when the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991.

"I'm very happy that we have formed a real space dynasty, and that I am not the only founder of such a dynasty," Alexander Volkov told a news conference after the docking, gesturing at Owen Garriott.

Volkov, 60, said he was eagerly awaiting his son's return -- and suggested he felt a little jealous of the younger generation of space travelers.

"I woke up one recent morning and thought -- why shouldn't I fly to space again?" he said. "I did some exercises, felt good and thought: why not?"

Owen Garriott liked the idea.

"I think if we could go together, that might be a good idea," said Garriott. "But perhaps we are not old enough yet."

Long rivals in the Cold War space race, Washington and Moscow often point to the space program as an example of cooperation in their otherwise difficult relationship, which reached a low point in August when Russia defeated Georgia, a U.S. ally, in a brief war.

During their stint, Fincke and Lonchakov will work to expand the capacity of the station to host a crew of six -- up from three -- with additional sleep spaces, a second toilet and an exercise machine. Their crewmate Greg Chamioff will be replaced by another U.S. astronaut, Sandra Magnus, who is scheduled to arrive on a space shuttle in November along with equipment for the expansion.

Copyright © 2024 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.