15 October 2008

Sixth space tourist arrives at ISS

Richard Garriott

ZUI this article dated 12 October from Spaceflight Now:
A Russian Soyuz spacecraft rocketed into orbit and set off after the international space station Sunday, carrying two fresh crew members and a U.S. computer game designer who paid some $30 million for a chance to follow in his astronaut father's footsteps.

Mounted on the same launch pad Yuri Gagarin used for the first manned spaceflight nearly five decades ago, the Soyuz TMA-13 vehicle took off on time at 3:01:29 a.m. EDT (1:01:29 p.m. local time) and quickly climbed away through a clear afternoon sky at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Nine minutes later, the capsule entered its planned preliminary orbit.

On board are Soyuz commander and Expedition 18 flight engineer Yury Lonchakov, Expedition 18 commander Mike Fincke and Richard Garriott, the sixth space tourist to book a flight to the international space station. Garriott, the son of former Skylab and shuttle astronaut Owen Garriott, is the designer of a series of successful multiplayer computer games. He said before launch "this price tag is the majority of my wealth."

ZUI also this article from the International Herald-Tribune:
The sons of a Russian cosmonaut and a U.S. astronaut met in space Tuesday when spaceman Sergei Volkov welcomed American Richard Garriott on board the International Space Station.

Garriott, a computer game developer who paid $35 million (20 million pounds) for his trip to space, arrived with two crewmates on board a Soyuz capsule, which docked with the space station two days after blasting off from a launch-pad in Kazakhstan.

After the hatches were opened between the capsule and the station at 10:55 a.m. British time, Volkov -- whose cosmonaut father was orbiting the earth when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 -- welcomed Garriott with a hug.


Russian television showed Garriott smiling after taking congratulations from friends and family, including his astronaut father Owen, who joked with Alexander Volkov at mission control in Moscow.

And this article from Space.com:
Aboard the station, Expedition 17 commander Sergei Volkov and flight engineers Oleg Kononenko and Greg Chamitoff welcomed their first human visitors since June. Hatches between the two spacecraft opened at about 5:55 a.m. EDT (0955 GMT).


Chamitoff joined the Expedition 17 crew in June and will stay aboard with Fincke and Lonchakov for the first stage of their six-month Expedition 18 spaceflight. His current crewmates, Volkov and Kononenko, are wrapping up their own six-month mission and will return to Earth on Oct. 23 with Garriott.


Garriott has packed his private spaceflight with a host of science experiments and educational outreach projects. He has about 500 targets to photograph on Earth, many of them identical to those observed by his father — a two-time spaceflyer who flew to the U.S. space station Skylab and aboard a U.S. shuttle — during the Skylab 3 mission in 1973. Owen Garriott is serving as his son's chief scientist for the spaceflight.

The joint Expedition 18 and Expedition 17 crew, meanwhile, will begin an intense handover period as Volkov and Kononenko prepare for their trip home.

Finke and Lonchakov expect to perform one spacewalk during their mission and host two visiting space shuttle missions that will bring new equipment vital to prepare the space station for larger, six-person crews.

Chamitoff is scheduled to return to Earth aboard space shuttle Endeavour (mission STS-126) in late November.

The man scheduled to be the seventh space tourist, in the meantime, has met with a delay. ZUI this article from RIA Novosti:
A Russian space tourist hopeful is to miss out on a trip to the stars in the autumn of 2009, with a Kazakh astronaut likely to take his place, a Russian space agency official said on Tuesday.

Roscosmos announced in 2007 that businessman and politician, Vladimir Gruzdev, would become the country's first Russian space tourist, most likely in November 2009.

"There is not yet an opportunity to send the unqualified Russian citizen, whose name you all know, to the International Space Station," said Alexei Krasnov, head of manned programs at the Roscosmos space agency.

He said talks were underway with Kazakhstan to send one of its professional astronauts into space next fall, adding that, "I have no doubt that this flight will take place, because we have received all the funding from Kazakhstan."

He added that Gruzdev could be sent into space if a decision to build an extra Soyuz spacecraft was made.

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