CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The son of a retired astronaut is about to follow his father into orbit, after buying a $30 million ticket for a seat on a Russian rocket.
Richard Garriott, who made his fortune in computer games, is scheduled to blast off aboard a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan in October 2008 on a one-week trip to the international space station.
His father, Owen Garriott, 76, spent 59 days aboard Skylab, America's first space station, in 1973 and flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1983.
It will be the first time a child of an American astronaut rockets into space. In Russia, sons have followed their fathers into the cosmonaut corps three times, and one is slated to go to the international space station next spring.
"My dad was an astronaut so I grew up believing that space was going to be available for everyone at some point in the future," Richard Garriott told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday. "But I realized that the NASA method was a statistical improbability. If I was going to get a chance to go myself, it would have to be through private space travel."
Garriott is 46 and lives in a medieval-style mansion in Austin, Texas, complete with its own dungeon and secret passages. The house is modeled after the setting of his "Ultima" video games.
He plans to dedicate much of his time in space to science, engineering and educational projects. A biotechnology company co-founded by his father, who has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, will send up protein experiments for him to work on.
"Because of my career, it was almost natural for Richard to be interested in space and exploration," Owen Garriott said in a statement issued Friday by Space Adventures Limited, the Virginia company that brokered the trip.
Space Adventures has organized orbital flights for five previous millionaires, including the first paying space tourist, California businessman Dennis Tito, in 2001. The early trips went for a reported $20 million each, but in July, Space Adventures President Eric Anderson said the weak dollar had spiked the price to a minimum $30 million.
Richard Garriott, a University of Texas dropout, developed the "Ultima" series, a computer game franchise, and with his brother, Robert, founded Origin Systems, a computer game developer and publisher. He also co-founded the North American arm of NCsoft, an online game developer and publisher. His newest game, "Tabula Rasa", is due out in October.
In Russia, Sergey Volkov, 34, a pilot, is set to fly to the international space station, as commander, next spring. His father, Aleksandr, rocketed into orbit in the 1980s and early 1990s. And Roman Romanenko, 36, trained as a cosmonaut but has never flown in space. His father, Yuri, flew as a space commander in the 1970s and 1980s.
Neither of the father-son cosmonaut combo of Aleksandr Skvortsov Sr. and Jr. has flown in space.
On the U.S. side, space has proven to be a family affair for identical twins Scott and Mark Kelly, both shuttle pilots, and several married couples. One couple, now divorced and married to other people, even flew on the same shuttle mission in 1992.
AP Technology Writer Matt Slagle in Dallas contributed to this report.