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10/13/2008
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Game Developer On His Way To International Space Station

Richard Garriott has the distinction of being the son of NASA astronaut Owen Garriott.

Game developer Richard Garriott is on his way to the International Space Station, but he's already made space history.

Garriott, a client of commercial space mission company Space Adventures Ltd., and other crewmembers launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz TMA spacecraft Sunday. He now holds the distinction of being the first second-generation astronaut. Garriott's father, Owen Garriott, was a NASA astronaut.

"Today, my dream of following in my father's footsteps to explore new frontiers is being realized," Garriott said in a prepared statement. "Throughout my life, my sense of adventure has taken me to the ends of the earth to embark on journeys few people have encountered. It's with honor and appreciation that I launch on my greatest adventure yet, and step into a role assumed by only five private individuals before me."

Garriott will communicate with students associated with the Challenger Center for Space Science Education through a NASA-sponsored teleconference, two ham radio downlinks in cooperation with Amateur Radio on the space station, and videotaped experiments that can be replicated on Earth, Space Adventures said. He also will conduct two science experiments designed by primary and secondary students from the United Kingdom working with the British National Space Center.

He said that he has dedicated the flight to "not only scientific and environmental research, but also educational outreach."

"I'm thrilled to be able to excite students throughout the world and demonstrate how far our dreams can take us," he said.

Garriott, best known for developing the "Ultima" series of video games, also will participate in experiments on the physical impact of spaceflight. Specifically, he will help researchers figure out how the eyes react to low and high pressure in a microgravity environment and how spaceflight affects the immune system and sleep/wake patterns. He also plans to help the European Space Agency gain insight into the spinal and skeletal system, including the response to G-force transitions.

He will shoot photographs of ecologically significant places on Earth. The Nature Conservancy and Garriott will compare the images to those taken by his father 35 years ago.

Finally, Garriott will conduct a variety of tests and experiments for a number of commercial companies.

Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures, said Garriott's launch helps the company achieve its goal of opening "the space frontier," and it demonstrates the viability of civilian space travel, while also highlighting potential for commercial opportunities.

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