The son of former NASA astronaut Owen Garriott was launched into orbit early Sunday (US time) aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket to become the sixth paying visitor to the International Space Station. Additionally, Richard Garriott becomes the first second-generation American astronaut to launch into space.The 47 year old computer video game pioneer launched from the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:01am EDT (0701 GMT). Creator of the Ultima computer game series, Garriott paid $30 million for the 10 day trip to the ISS. The trip takes place under an agreement between Russia’s Federal Space Agency and Space Adventures.
"Today, my dream of following in my father's footsteps to explore new frontiers is being realized," Garriott said. "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 is travelling aboard the Soyuz TMA-13 with Michael Fincke and Yury Lonchakov, who will stay behind aboard the ISS as they begin Expedition 18. The third member of Expedition 18, NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoffc, is already aboard the station. Garriott’s two travelling companions will replace Expedition 17 commander Sergei Volkov and flight engineer Oleg Kononenko of Russia, who will return to Earth with Garriott on October 23.
"I feel well prepared for this flight, and have complete faith in my crew mates, our beautiful rocket, and the huge number of people it takes to launch our Soyuz and operate the ISS," Garriott wrote on his Web site prior to launch. "I wish I could share this experience with each of you, in the way I have had the opportunity to experience it."
Watching the liftoff was Garriott’s father, as well as Space Adventures’ next paying tourist Charles Simonyi, and Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who has himself put down a $5 million down payment for a future Space Adventures flight.