Russian Rocket Blasts Into Space With Two Americans Onboard
The Soyuz TMA-13 capsule carrying American computer game millionaire, Richard Garriott, US astronaut, Michael Fincke, and Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Lonchakov, sent an orange flare behind it as it soared upward into a clear sky. The family of the latest paying space traveler's family watched from a viewing platform as the rocket departed on schedule and entered orbit about ten minutes later. Garriott’s mother, Eve, and his girlfriend, Kelly Miler, were both deeply relieved at the successful launch.
Owen Garriot, father of Richard, former astronaut and the very first American to see his child follow his footsteps into space, said:
“I’m elated. They’re in orbit. That’s good!”
At the international space station, Garriott will be spending about 10 days conducting experiments, including some whose sponsors helped fund his trip. One of his tasks, which he is thrilled to perform, is photographing Earth to measure changes since his father snapped pictures from the U.S. station Skylab in 1973. The plan is for him to return to earth in a Soyuz capsule along with Russian cosmonaut, Sergei Volkov, whose father also traveled to space, making them apt company for each other as the first second-generation space travelers.
The 47-year-old Texas multi-millionaire who made his fortune designing computer fantasy games had dreams of becoming an astronaut, which he had to abandon because of his poor eyesight. For the privilege of being on board the space capsule and thus the fulfillment of his childhood fantasy, he paid a reported US $30 million dollars.
His fiancé said:
“I'm really happy for him. It's one of the things he's wanted to do most in his life. I spent a lot of time listening to him about when he goes up in space.
He's like a kid in a candy shop.”
The chief of Russia's space agency, Roskosmos, Anatoly Perminov, said:
“Increasingly strained ties between Moscow and Washington will not stand in the way of further space exploration. Soyuz rockets and capsules will be the only way to put people on the space station after the U.S. space shuttle fleet is retired in 2010.”
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M Dee Dubroff