Video game pioneer heading to space

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

The next space tourist to visit the International Space Station with Russian astronauts will be the son of an astronaut, and not a Russian politician, as was rumoured earlier.

Video game developer Richard Garriott, who made his name as one of the makers of the Ultima series, will board a Russian Soyuz rocket in Oct. 2008, becoming the first American to follow in his father's footsteps on a journey to space, the Associated Press reports.

In 1973 Garriott's father Owen spent 59 days aboard Skylab, America's first space station, and flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1983.

As Garriott told the AP:

"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. 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 punched his ticket aboard the craft through the U.S. company Space Adventures, which has brokered the five previous space tourist trips. In July Space Adventures president Eric Anderson said the price of the ticket had gone from $20 million US to $30 million because of the weak U.S. dollar. Of course, U.S. citizens can always apply to NASA the old-fashioned way.

Reports out of Russia from the summer had pegged Russian grocery magnate and politician Vladimir Gruzdev as the next space tourist.

There have been hints Gruzdev would be making the trip, but no official announcement from Space Adventures or the Russian Space Agency has ever been made. The latest news suggests he's booked for "no sooner than 2009."