An American space tourist bound for the International Space Station (ISS) has begun training for his fall launch aboard a Russian rocket.
Computer game developer Richard Garriott is spending six weeks in Russia to undergo initial medical checks and the first round of training for flight aboard a Soyuz spacecraft.
"This year is definitely where all my priorities and schedules have rotated to where space becomes the top priority and terrestrial activities become secondary," Garriott told SPACE.com. "There's no aspect of the actual training that I perceive that's going to be scary or intimidating, I just look at it as going to be really smooth from here."
Garriott, 46, is paying about $30 million to launch to the ISS with two professional spaceflyers this fall under an agreement between Russia's Federal Space Agency and the Virginia-based firm Space Adventures. He is the creator of the Ultimate series of online computer games and is contemplating $15 million spacewalk as an additional mission perk.
The son of former NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, who flew aboard the U.S. Skylab station and a U.S. shuttle, the younger Garriott is set to become the first second-generation U.S. spaceflyer and the sixth paying visitor to the ISS during his mission.
"We have been having about five e-mails from each other a day," Garriott said of his father, who will serve as chief scientist for his upcoming flight. "My dad will even tell you this is the hardest he's worked since he left the space program."
Garriott plans to spend about nine days aboard the space station, during which time he will perform protein crystallization and Earth observation experiments, some of which include photographing sites his father observed from Skylab in 1973.
But before launching, Garriott must educate himself in the workings of Russian Soyuz spacecraft and the ISS, not to mention the Russian language.
"I've never learned a second language before," he said. "You just want to be able to participate fully and competently and enjoyably, and I'm gaining confidence that I can do that."
On Sunday, Garriott expected to meet with ISS Expedition 18 commander Michael Fincke, with whom he'll launch to the station later this year, as well as South Korean astronaut Ko San. Ko, South Korea's first astronaut, will launch toward the space station on April 8 with the outpost's Expedition 17 crew.
Garriott said he also hoped to meet with Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, commander of Expedition 17. Like Garriott, Volkov is a second-generation spaceflyer who, if all goes according to plan, will return to Earth with the U.S. space tourist later this fall.
"I'm really going to work hard to get a chance to meet him before he flies," Garriott said.
Copyright © 2008 Imaginova Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.