American fulfills his space dream

A U.S. computer game designer boarded the international space station Tuesday, floating onto the orbital outpost 35 years after his astronaut father circled the Earth on Skylab.

Richard Garriott was greeted by another man who has turned space flight into a family tradition: Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, whose father is a decorated veteran of the Soviet space program.

Both proud fathers – Owen Garriott with a U.S. flag patch on his jacket and Alexander Volkov with a Soviet medal pinned to his chest – watched on a screen at Russian Mission Control outside Moscow as the Soyuz craft that delivered Garriott homed in on the station and docked flawlessly.

“It's looking great and they are starting off on a fascinating new adventure,” Owen Garriott said.

About 90 minutes later, Richard Garriott and his two crewmates floated through a hatch and onto the station, where they got bear hugs from Sergei Volkov and the other two men aboard.

“Congratulations on leaving the cradle of Earth,” Garriott's brother Robert said in a video linkup with the station.

Garriott, 47, paid a reported $30 million to fulfill his childhood dream of space travel. Growing up, his determination was only strengthened when he was told his poor eyesight would prevent him from becoming a NASA astronaut like his father.

“Hi, Peter Pan,” his girlfriend, Kelly Miller, said during the video link. Garriott chuckled and said, “I can fly.”

Garriott flew up to the station with Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov and U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke, who are scheduled to spend six months in orbit. Garriott is due to return to Earth in a Soyuz capsule on Oct. 24 with Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, who have been there since April.

“Oleg, you need a haircut,” a Russian space official told Kononenko, getting a laugh from Mission Control crowd. “Come home.”

Before they do, Garriott will spend 10 days conducting experiments – some for sponsors that helped foot the bill. He will photograph Earth to measure environmental damage and the effects of conservation since his father took pictures from Skylab in 1973.