As a computer game designer, he's made millions creating fantasy worlds. Now, Richard Garriott will live out his own fantasy of spaceflight.
Garriott, 47, will become the first child of a U.S. astronaut to travel to space when he takes his $30 million seat aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule set to lift off Oct. 12 for the international space station.
Garriott follows in the footsteps of his father, Owen Garriott, a two-time space traveler who took extensive photographs of the Earth's surface during his stay on the U.S. orbital station Skylab in 1973.
Using data from the Skylab photo archive, the younger Garriott plans to take photos to record how the Earth's surface has changed in the 35 years since.
While expecting to find negative examples, "I believe it will be possible to find evidence of some conservation success stories," he said Tuesday at a news conference with his Soyuz crewmates, Russian Yuri Lonchakov and American Michael Fincke.
Garriott won't be the first person to follow a parent into space. Sergei Volkov, son of former Russian cosmonaut Alexander Volkov, has been living on the space station since April and is slated to return to Earth with Garriott after the American's short stay.
The quest has taken the Austin, Texas, resident halfway around the world to Star City, outside Moscow, where he has spent a year in grueling preparations for the 10-day trip.
Every youngster dreams of going to space, Garriott said.
"For me, growing up with a father who was an astronaut and neighbors who were all either astronauts or NASA engineers, that dream sunk in more deeply," he said.
And it only gathered momentum when he was told as an adolescent that poor eyesight meant he would never be selected as a NASA astronaut — "which was like being told I was no longer going to be able to be a member of the club that everyone I knew was a part of."
"I very quickly determined that I would not take 'no' for an answer," Garriott said.
A few years later, Garriott bought his first computer when his father matched the money he raised as a computer-store sales clerk. And as his career creating computer games took off, he began investing in the development of private spaceflight.
He is a board member and investor in Space Adventures, a Virginia-based company that has organized flights aboard Russian craft for five other millionaires including the first paying space tourist, California businessman Dennis Tito, in 2001.
Garriott plans to carry out experiments During his voyage, including one involving protein crystal growth, on behalf of companies that have footed a "meaningful percentage" of the bill.
Garriott's father, 77, will come to Russia to monitor his son's mission. He has helped prepare Garriott's experiments — and given the younger man some less scientific advice.
"He's very careful to say, 'Make sure you take the time to just sit at the window and take a look at the view, 'cause it's mighty spectacular,'" Garriott said.