A Thirty-Million Dollar Ride

The video game maker and Austin resident, Richard Garriot, is taking thirty-million out of his bank in order to realize his childhood dream of going into space. Bill Stamps has more.
Forty-seven-year-old Richard Garriot will have to pay a staggering thirty-million dollars to do what his father once did for free. Garriot's father was an astronaut who flew with Skylab 3 and the Space Shuttle Columbia. Garriot remembers years ago when he was told his vision would keep him from following in dad's footsteps.

"One of the optometrists was noting that I had poor eyesight and said, 'hey Richard, I'm really sorry but that poor eyesight is going to keep me from being selected as an astronaut'. But versus being crushed and giving up on that dream; that just set me on the path of saying 'oh you can't tell me no'. I thought everyone was going to space."

So Garriot turned his dreams of space into games. Video games. In the 80's he made games for Atari and Commodore 64. His latest inventions can be played on Windows and Mac computers. He'll have to leave his games at home when he and American Mike Fink climb into a Russian Soyuz and head for the International Space Station. This will be Fink's second time in space, but this time he wants a little more to put in the photo album.

"I think this time around though, I'll take more pictures. Last time I didn't take enough in the inside of the cabin, and we have a bigger space station, so I think I have to double my pictures."

The crew's mission will be to give the space station a makeover: converting it from a three man facility into a ship capable of holding six. Flight Engineer Sandra Magnus will join them a month later and will play a big role in the conversion.

"We're bringing up an extra toilet. We're bringing up the water regeneration system racks. And so, what we'll need to do right away is get those racks running, hooked up with the toilet and start processing urine — and make sure we are taking water samples every four days for quite sometime.  Make sure it's all working well and that we can get the water supplies recycling the way we need to so that we can support six people."

As for Richard Garriot, he says that thirty-million dollar check he has to write to get into space will clean out most of his bank account. But since its a childhood dream, he says it's worth every penny.

Bill Stamps. KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.