Mission Activities

Richard completed many interesting activities during his space flight and while on board the International Space Station. Activities included scientific research, educational projects and commercial sponsorship activities. Learn about each:



Richard chose to devote part of his mission to scientific activities. His partners included:


The first commercial research partner involved with Richard’s mission is ExtremoZyme, Inc., a biotechnology company he co-founded with his father, Owen Garriott. The company decided to conduct protein crystallization experiments in space, with proteins that have important cellular functions and are usually associated with common human diseases.


Richard took a container of small tubes of frozen protein molecules and precipitant. While in orbit, he allowed the tubes to thaw and a reaction to take place forming small crystal structures. Richard returned these to the Earth where the molecular structure of the proteins will be analyzed. The weightless environment of space helps the formation of superior crystals, which in turn enables researchers to learn more about the molecular details of these proteins which is essential for protein engineering and structure-guided drug design.


Twenty students from Huffman High and Indian Springs schools helped prepare the experiments during a workshop at the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Richard asked students for their predictions on his Protein Crystal Growth experiment through the Challenger Center.


Richard partnered with The Nature Conservancy to develop a project to identify environmental change on the surface of Earth at sites of particular interest as well as identify successful protection projects around the world. Richard documented the projects with photographs from space.


Richard’s father, former NASA Astronaut, Owen Garriott took many photographs of Earth during his missions to space aboard Skylab in 1973 and Spacelab-1 in 1983. One of the primary objectives of the Skylab missions was to photograph Earth, and these photographs were used by Richard and the Nature Conservancy scientists to compare the ecological changes that elapse during one generation.


Some of the identified locations and phenomena that Richard attempted to photograph include:


  • —Brazil’s Landscapes
  • —Meili Glacier in Zhongdian, China
  • —Cotopaxi, stratovolcano in Ecuador
  • —Congo & Amazon deforestation



Following in his father’s footsteps, Richard conducted three experiments on behalf of NASA during his spaceflight. The three experiments were:


Visual Acuity | Studying the current microgravity environment encountered by astronauts and how their eyes react to low and high pressure as well as variations in oxygen concentrations. Richard was the first space explorer to have had Photorefractive Keratectomy eye surgery, referred to as PRK. NASA recently approved this procedure for their astronauts, but to date, none have flown. NASA examined his visual acuity, accommodation and refraction before, during and after spaceflight. There was reason to believe visual acuity might change on orbit, as inner eye pressure goes up by as much as 50 percent during spaceflights. The information collected will help determine if an eye which has undergone a PRK procedure remains stable during a 10-day exposure to microgravity.


Immune system | Studying the effects of spaceflight on the human immune system and validate monitoring tests for immune function in astronauts. The study assessed immunity during spaceflight by testing white blood cells for changes in function or response to stimulation as a consequence of spaceflight. This information may determine astronauts’ clinical risk during spaceflight. Previous data collected suggests that there is a suppression of the immune system associated with spaceflight. Richard contributed to this data pool, and since his mission came mid-mission for some other astronauts; he was able to return fresh blood samples from long-duration crew members. This has rarely been able to be sampled.


Sleep study | Documenting sleep/wake patterns and sleep characteristics of astronauts.  Normal sleep patterns and body chemistry are notably changed during spaceflight. The data collected may assist in determining the efficacy of ongoing countermeasures for space-related sleep disturbances and may also assist in developing additional countermeasures which could potentially impact the health, productivity and safety of astronauts during spaceflight.



Richard conducted the following three experiments on behalf of ESA during his spaceflight:


Early Detection of Osteoporosis “EDOS” | This consists of the following scientific protocol:

  • —Performing densitometry & bone architecture measurements, with the goal of evaluating the bone modifications process and evolution, at a micro-architectural level, on astronauts/cosmonauts tibia and radius
  • —Performing analysis of astronauts blood samples in order to match their results (with regards to the elements responsible of the human bone cells modeling / (re)construction) with the ones obtained from the bone densitometry and architecture measurements


MOP Experiment | This aimed to:


  • —Obtain insight into the process of vestibular adaptation to G-transitions.
  • —Correlate the cosmonauts susceptibility to the Space Adaptation Syndrome (SAS) with the susceptibility to Sickness Induced by Centrifugation (SIC).


Muscle Experiment | This aimed to study the details on development of low back pain in astronauts during flight. Strain on the iliolumbarligaments increases with backward tilt of the pelvis combined with forward flexion of the spine. This is what astronauts may experience due to loss of curvature. The objective was to assess astronaut deep muscle corset atrophy in response to microgravity exposure. MRI data and questionnaire data obtained from Berlin Bed-Rest study was used for interpretation of low back pain questionnaire results.



While onboard the ISS, Richard used Windows on Earth software developed by TERC to help him photograph Earth. People could follow Richard Garriott’s flight using the same Windows on Earth software, track his mission, see what he was photographing, and observe Earth at the same time he was. The site also allowed others to view his images and to compare them to the images his father, astronaut Owen Garriott, took 35 years ago.


Visit Windows on Earth to see details about Richard’s mission.


Richard, in partnership with the British National Space Center (BNSC), has developed and educational outreach program inviting students to get involved with sciences challenges for both primary and secondary school students across the UK.


Primary school students (7-11 years old) students were invited to design experiments for Richard to carry out on the International Space Station. Secondary school students (11-19 years old) were invited to submit ideas on how space enterprise could develop in the future for space tourism companies including Space Adventures, using facilities such as the International Space Station.


Results Of The BNSC Competition


Richard joined forces with the Challenger Center to provide educational opportunities involving space to students. Richard built on the mission of Teacher-in-Space Christa McAuliffe, by engaging students before, during and after his spaceflight. While in space he performed experiments that could be replicated by students using everyday objects to demonstrate important concepts in physics.



  • —Richard recorded a series of podcasts and webcasts. For additional details, visit the Challenger Center website.
  • —Students submitted their predictions for the outcomes of his in-space experiments and design models.
  • —Richard talked via amateur radio with a selection of Challenger Learning Centers around the USA.
  • —Richard hosted a video blog from space.


Sports in Space | This web based game was designed for young students, to help them understand the differences in gravity on earth; on mars and on the moon. During his mission, Richard also demonstrated what happens when you try to jump, throw, and block in the weightless environment of space!




Seiko developed a Seiko Spring Drive Spacewalk watch, specifically for use in the harsh conditions of space during a spacewalk.  Richard took the watch to the International Space Station and tested it in the weightless environment.


Richard’s father, Owen Garriott, made two space flights aboard Skylab in 1973 and aboard STS-9/Spacelab-1 in 1983. In total, Owen spent 70 days in space and he carried SEIKO watches on both of these flights and wore one continuously during his Spacelab mission.


The SEIKO Spring Drive Spacewalk has been custom designed and built with a spacewalk in mind. The challenge of making a watch that could operate not only during a spaceflight but also outside on a spacewalk is a daunting one, and is precisely the kind of challenge that brings out the best in SEIKO’s engineers. Their mission was to build a watch that was light, air-tight, strong, easy to read and easy to use, as well as safe and accurate.


Attributes of the watch include:

  • —The air-tight case
  • —The lightness of high-intensity titanium
  • —The optimum balance of lightness and wide-dial opening
  • —The most readable dial
  • —Maximum ease of use


Read more at the Seiko Spacewalk website.


Richard conducted a physics experiment while on the ISS as part of an initiative sponsored by DHL. The experiment was designed as an educational contest taking place at the DHL Innovation Center in Bonn, Germany. While onboard the space station, Richard conducted the experiment and captured the results on video and in photographs. The footage and images will be used on the website of the DHL Innovation Center. The students whose test results are most consistent with the actual outcome of the experiment will receive awards.


“I am very excited to participate in DHL’s educational programming. It’s vital for our future that kids today are interested in and thrilled about lessons from the laws of physics,” said Richard.


“Of course we’re delighted that Richard Garriott has chosen to integrate this DHL initiative into the October mission,” said Dr. Andrej Busch, Member of the Divisional Board DHL Parcel Germany. “Education has always been a key to innovation at DHL and I think being part of this space initiative represents our ‘look to the future’ quite well.”


Operation Immortality

Could you be the savior of humankind? NCsoft launched the “Immortality Drive”—a time capsule with the digitized DNA of select video game players and space aficionados into orbit when Richard Garriott traveled to the International Space Station. During the campaign before the launch, Tabula Rasa players had the chance to have their DNA sequenced, digitized and sent into space on the Immortality Drive. Other items included on the capsule are a list of humanity’s greatest achievements, such as the greatest song of all time and the greatest technological breakthrough. Tabula Rasa players were also be able to enter a personal message and upload their character for inclusion on the Drive.


“I’ve been able to do some very exciting things in the games business, but nothing of this magnitude,” said Garriott, executive producer for Tabula Rasa. “I’m thrilled we can offer the once in a lifetime chance to millions of gamers to virtually go to space with me. A select few will have their DNA digitized and sent. And theoretically, if anything happens to the human race, it could be their DNA that is used to resurrect humanity.”

Zero Gravity Art

Richard joined forces with Zero Gravity Art, Inc. to host an art show in space.  The art show incorporated art created by his mother, various sculptors, competition winners, and art that Richard created during his time in space.


In partnership with Zero Gravity Art, Inc, U.S. artists submitted their works into the Zero Gravity Art contest. Richard, along with other judges, selected the pieces of art to be included in the art show.  The contest required artists to use paper that is 100% cotton, no larger than 35.5 x 51 cm, is able to roll into a tube for launch and reentry, and must be painted with non-toxic watercolor or Gouache paint. Richard will also be taking up with him work by his friends from the art world whom created sculptures to incorporate in the art show. Additionally, Richard created art in space during his mission in October of 2008. He practiced alongside his mother, an accomplished artist, on several Zero-G flights with canvases and paint to experience the environment while creating zero gravity art. The art reflected the emotional experience of being in space and the physical effects of zero gravity.


After Richard’s mission, the art will be put up for auction to benefit the Challenger Center, an international, not-for-profit education organization that was founded by the families of the astronauts lost during the last flight of the Challenger Space Shuttle in 1986.



Mission Partners



A protein crystallization experiment to help in drug development

The Nature Conservancy
Partners in a project to identify a generation of environmental change

Experiments investigating visual acuity and the immune system in space

Understanding how the human body copes with spaceflight


An education and research development organization

Challenger Center
Fun activities to help students understand more about space

Involving British students in spaceflight


Taking a specially designed watch on a spacewalk

A physics demonstration in space designed to help students learn


Operation Immortality
Preserving the human race via digitized DNA

Zero Gravity Art Show
An art show in space.