Q&A Richard takes some time to answer a few questions.
What are the challenges that face space travel in the coming decades?
What are Richard’s plans in the world of gaming?
Some miscellaneous questions for Richard.
Various questions related to spaceflight.
Christopher from Rancho Cucamonga, CA asks:
The public perception seems to be that space travel, exploration, and experimentation aren’t relevant today and that money spent on such endeavors could be better spent on social programs. How can NASA better inform the public about its missions and get people excited about space travel once again?
This is actually a subject I’ve been giving a lot of thought to—especially when I was down training at Johnson Center in Houston. I agree with the problem and believe it does need some effort; as you may know, NASA spends a great deal of money on this. They produce NASA TV, with three or four collections of information for educators, students, and the public. You can also find things like the other NASA sites that are running space probes for other planets or operating telescopes to regular blogs that are available to general public.
As much of a space enthusiast as I am, I almost never go directly to NASA TV. When I look for information or entertainment, I go to the local newspaper, popular magazines, and swing through a number of television channels. If I were to make a recommendation now, I would say instead of just producing content for NASA TV, they need to insert content into the mainstream sources that people are already using. Places like iTunes are good, but I think they should be producing shows for Discovery or National Geographic or anything else within mainstream media. The goal of how to really reach people and inspire them about their long term mission is still elusive.
Joe from Houston asks:
Now that people are taking you seriously as a space participant on the ISS, are you thinking ahead to a circumlunar trip to the moon?
Well, of course! In addition to being a Space Adventures client, I am one of the principal investors and board members of Space Adventures, so thinking ahead, absolutely yes; thinking I would like to go, absolutely yes; thinking I will be able to go, unfortunately very likely not. I’ve just barely been able to afford the opportunity to travel to space myself and I am thrilled to be able to do that, and for decades, I’ve been investing for just this. While I do hope to get into space again and I believe I can do it commercially—in the sense that I can build enough activities to subsidize the cost of a space trip, I don’t believe that will be enough to cover the cost of a circumlunar trip.
Rebecca from Cuyahoga Falls, OH asks:
There have been recent reports of plans to build a permanent station dedicated to research and further space exploration on the moon. What roles do you feel government, private industry, and the academic community will play in this project? Would everyone benefit from the research done on the moon, or only a few key players who can fund this type of research?
My belief is that the government’s primary role in the exploration of space is to tackle the biggest, boldest and riskiest projects. And whether that’s placing a permanent habitation on the Moon or putting people for the first time on Mars, I think those kinds of firsts will remain within the exclusive purview of governments—just due to their size and complexity of these endeavors. To justify returning to space or staying in space or staying on the moon, however, those projects have to prove themselves to be economically rewarding. So, ultimately I believe private industry and private individuals must play a role or it’s reasonable to question why we are there in the first place.
As an example, if you look at the satellite industry, which was started by government agencies like NASA, it’s almost entirely now privately funded by a highly competitive suite of corporations. I believe the same thing will now occur as we continue to explore low earth orbit and space stations and ultimately this will occur as we reach and travel more to the moon. I just think that government has to chart a course there first and it will take private industry another decade or two to follow along behind it.
Along those same lines, when the government is the primary sponsor of space exploration as it typically is to begin with, and thus it’s taxpayer money being spent, the benefits by necessity go to the populace at large, and the results of that scientific research belong to the taxpayers at large. But after 10 to 20 years when we begin to see private funds being spent to further those developments, I would think those technologies, those advancements and those tools can become privately owned. That, of course, has the side benefit of driving down costs and driving up the variety of technologies that are available.
How will all this involve the academic community? Well, just like the teacher-in-space activities that were done on the space shuttle over the last decade or so, it’s a process that evolves over time. The first people to head to the moon will be NASA scientists and engineers, but soon you’ll begin to see pressure for educators to participate. You’ll begin to see that within several years. But, the first steps will be so risky and complicated they will demand that travel to the moon remains fairly engineering focused. But in the long run, I think education will play an equal role.
Virgiliu from Romania asks:
I understand that it will cost about $30 million for you to achieve your lifelong dream of visiting space. Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper if all the would-be space tourists—instead of paying a third party—put their money together and developed a private orbital space program?
Good to hear from you! I hope your recent space book has been selling well. I have bought a couple copies myself. I have been working on the suborbital front too now for many years. I do believe those craft will soon exist and be much more affordable, yet these first craft will not reach the space station, nor stay in space for more than a couple of minutes. If that was all I could do, I would do it and be very happy, but orbital spaceflight is really the goal, and for the foreseeable future, I believe the Soyuz rocket is the cheapest and safest way to get to orbit. Any alternatives will be many more years in development, and the costs, just for energy, will remain high until the far off potential of things like space elevators is realized, which may ultimately make access much cheaper.
Dmytro from Ukraine asks:
Would you take part in an expedition to celestial bodies like the Moon or Mars?
Yes, if it becomes possible. I have said since I was very young, that if the director of NASA came to me and asked: “We have a mission into deep space, where you will be part of a crew that will leave the earth to never return within a single lifetime, do you want to go?” I would say “yes” in a heartbeat! However, we (Space Adventures) now offer a trip to the moon and back—I just can’t afford it … yet.
Theodore from USA asks:
In the past, there have always been many generous benefactors who helped finance scientific inquiry for the betterment of man. Do you feel those who can should put their money together to expedite a mission to Mars?
I think private money must help one step at a time. I don’t think private donations could match the cash needed for a Mars mission all at once. Instead, we should get private missions going into space first, and then reach farther and farther. I think voting and lobbying is the best way to get a Mars mission going soonest. Without regard to what you think about the war in Iraq, it’s sad that NASA’s yearly budget is less than what it costs for one week of war.
Erick Herlitz from Patagonia, Chile asks:
This mission will definitely be an experience that will change your life. Do you think you will change your view of humankind when you see our blue planet?
Many astronauts say it does. I am looking forward to seeing if the same holds true for me!
Victor from Irkutsk, Siberia, Russia asks:
I believe that “botanic gardens” could be a good model for future gardens during missions to other planets and for the survival and sustainable development of colonies on Mars, the Moon, etc. What do you think?
I actually think that you are on to something accurate. I am a big fan of a project called Biosphere II which I visited some years ago, and even though that experiment is no longer in operation, I think that it is the sort of environment that is necessary for a closed-environment, long-term stay on another planet.
Jean from California asks:
When humanity has built bases on the moon and visited surrounding planets, how long do you think it will take before a permanent voyage in search of a far off planet to terraform is planned?
I’m a huge space enthusiast, but I’m also a skeptic when it comes to leaving our star system and heading further into the galaxy. I think it will take another 10-20 years before we have bases on the Moon or Mars. I think it’s going to be another 100-200 years before we begin to chart a course that has human beings on board a multi-generational voyage to another planet outside of the Solar System. I would be thrilled if it happens in our lifetime, but I think it will be highly unlikely that we will have people traveling extra-solar anytime soon.
Mathew from England asks:
Can you ever increase air pressure in space so you have normal gravity—so you can do more than just float everywhere?
Interestingly, when people think of the space station, they think it is way up in space far away from earth and because of that distance, there isn’t much gravity. It turns out that common perception isn’t accurate. If you take a 1 foot globe, the orbit that space station is in is about the thickness of a nickel or two away from the surface of the earth. That’s really how thick the earth’s atmosphere is; it’s quite thin. In fact if the space station was standing above Houston, not only you would feel that gravity in the space station, the entire space station would feel it and crash into Houston.
In the station, you feel the normal one gravity just like on earth, the reason why it appears different is because it’s in orbit—traveling around the earth at 17210 miles/hr. This is like a yoyo going to the bottom of the string being rolled around and holding itself away from your arm. That same centrifugal force keeps the station in orbit and keeps you inside the space station. If you were to add more atmosphere to the earth, you could in theory expand the atmosphere but the side effect of that would be increased pressure on the ground, meaning people would breathe over-pressured atmosphere which could be toxic, things in orbit at the current altitude would experience drags and may fall out of orbit and we’d have to put space stations into higher orbits within the vacuum of space where they can glide around without swimming through or be dragged down by the atmosphere. So, adding air pressure wouldn’t really help in that sense.
Ian from TX asks:
Do you think that, one day, interplanetary space travel will be as simple as crossing a “warp gate” like in Tabula Rasa? Great work on the game, by the way. I love it.
Well, what’s interesting about worm holes and things of that nature, is that they appear to be mathematically feasible and, so far in the field of science, for anything that is mathematically feasible, there have been people who have found a way to make it work. In the case of worm holes and things of that nature, while it’s a mathematical possibility, the energies that are involved are energies that involve multiple stellar masses of energy so while I think it’s a hypothetical possibility; it’s definitely nothing near term, if possible at all.
Josh from Singapore asks:
Space Adventures is constructing a spaceport here in my hometown and I intend to enroll in their space camp (I’m 12 years old) and become an astronaut in the future or fund my own space mission. What advice would you give me?
You are at a great age for space travel. The cost of access to and the opportunities to travel in space are growing quickly. While it will remain somewhat expensive for the next many years, there will also be many new ways to work in space that you should also consider!
Xanthias from Round Rock, TX asks:
Will you be bringing a computer with you to log in as General British in Tabula Rasa via satellite?
Well, in fact, as you have speculated, we do plan to connect to the Tabula Rasa community through space. The exact details of how you can do it with the extreme lag time and difficulties of connecting from space won’t be through booting up TR on my laptop and connecting directly to the game because that is just not physically possible, but there is no question that I will connect to the Tabula Rasa community in whatever ways are available to me in orbit.
Michael Lubker from Austin, TX asks:
Would a serious MMO featuring commercial spaceflight as both a game mechanic and as a research project interest you?
That is a difficult question. I often thought and have been asked about whether I thought my spaceflight will impact my game design in the future. Though in some I feel the answer is clearly yes, I’m not sure if it will be in a very realistic way. There are a number of things that are fun to do in the real world, for example, the fun I had with training this whole year, but if we made it into a game in which you operate Soyuz controls, you’d have to go to classes to learn to operate it and the events of operation would take 4-10 hours just to get off the ground and get into space. The 8 minutes it takes to get into space would be exciting but the 10 hours of preparation and months of training ahead would not be really as fun to do it in reality. So how to incorporate the reality of the experience into something that is informative and entertaining still eludes me, but I will be thinking about that and see how I can incorporate it in the future.
Mike from Houston asks:
Is it true that you wanted a computer, but your Dad said you couldn’t buy any games—you had to write your own?
Well, that exact statement is not true, but I think there is a thread of truth behind it. I was allowed to play video games, but my Dad said if I wanted a computer, and back then even a very simple Apple II cost about $1000 dollars which is a lot of money for a high school student, he will put up half the money if I put up the other half, so I worked to get half the money and got the rest from my Dad.
Jayesh from Vancouver, Canada asks:
Would you consider making a sequel to BioForge? The game was ahead of its time. Lex’s one liner’s were witty, the puzzles were absorbing, the graphics seemed incredible, and it seems to have achieved something like cult status. Any chance you’d be willing to continue the story?
Yes, I agree regarding your fond memories of BioForge. I have similar ones myself. It’s funny, when I think of that game, I always think of it as “Green Guns”, which was our in-house working title based upon a laser tag-like game that we used to play in the halls while we were making that game. The possibility of sequeling that game is unlikely. The hands of time and state of the art of computer gaming move very quickly. If some of the original development team wanted to come together and rebuild that, you might see some movement in that direction. But unfortunately for all of us, it’s likely going to remain a fond memory.
In general, by the way, I still am very excited about solo player games and the kinds of puzzles that you put in to a game like BioForge. And so some day, in my personal future, we may go back to solo player games, however I think the creative and business opportunity is in the massively multiplayer online games. And so for the foreseeable future I think we’ll continue to make MMOs.
Anthony from Redding, CA asks:
Six years ago, I had purchased Ultima: Exodus for the Nintendo Entertainment System. I found that it was your best work to date. After that, I became very interested in your earlier works, and I found out about the first two Ultima games. I also found out that there were some books created for Ultima, though they were based on later games in the series (one of which I own). Would you ever consider creating a book series based on the first three Ultima games?
Writing text is something I’ve often pondered but never tested my skills at so, at the very least, I would require a great deal of guidance or partnership from a real writer. Fictionalizing the Ultima games or our future works is something I’m interested in, but have no current plans for.
Alexis from Lisbon, Portugal asks:
I have Ultima IX: Ascension and would like to buy official The Dragon Edition, brand new. Can you point me in the right direction?
Alexis, I do not think there are any “official” versions, as all are now in the hands of players and collectors. I might have some hidden away myself, but I won’t be able to check until I am back in Texas! Contact me again post flight!
Anthony from Redding, California asks:
I have written a book based on Ultima 3 and I would like your permission to have it published. Can I contact you about this?
I no longer control the Ultima trade mark, for that you will have to talk with Electronic Arts!
Danilo from Rome, Italy asks:
Do you think that, maybe, one day you could work again on the Ultima saga? Thanks and good luck!
I do get that question a lot, and I would love that opportunity, but I feel the chances are very remote to work specifically on something called Ultima. But, to go back and do the spiritual successor or something based on a similar design philosophy is more likely.
Jason from Michigan USA asks:
Dear Richard, I just wanted to say thanks for all you have contributed to the gaming world. Recently I marked the passing of Gary Gygax, and realized I never sent the man a fan letter thanking him for all the inspiration he provided me and my friends. Someone said, a way to remember Gary was to thank others who had made great contribution to the gaming world. You came to mind. I wish you the best of luck in space. Will your experiences be shared in a new game, or do you just intend to write about it, or both?
My real life and the content of my games very commonly overlap. If you look at the Ultima series, which is full of astronomical events, orreries, telescopes, dungeons and secret passageways, all those things show up in my home, so I think its extremely likely that my trip to space will influence my games in the future, exactly how you’ll have to ask me afterwards or watch for the games yourself.
Cody from Vancouver, Canada asks:
Your game design skills have inspired me to design games of my own games. What advice would you give me or anyone on designing a world—like Britannia?
The process of what I often describe as “reality crafting” is actually a very difficult undertaking. While I think a lot of people are quiet capable of designing a level or map or piece of a game, crafting an entire reality where the reality is internally self-consistent and believable yet also compelling with activities that are intelligible and interesting and make you want to be there is quite difficult.
If there is one piece of advice I would give, it is to consider the concept of research. Usually, if people run with their first idea, which is what I think most people do, those ideas are not usually inspired. I think inspired ideas require more introspection and research in order to come up with something fresh, unique and compelling.
David from Fort Worth, TX asks:
Thank you for so many great memories. I recently completed a port of Ultima V (one of my favorite Ultimas) to the Texas Instruments TI-89 calculator. I made every effort to keep it a faithful recreation within the limitations of the hardware. I hope you will be pleased with the outcome. Do you happen to have a TI-89 calculator lying around your house?
I might have access to one. I think it would be quite cool to a get a chance to see a portable Ultima V on that machine!
Murcio from Brazil asks:
I have a thought. Why don’t you write a book called something like the Bible of Ultima with explanations about the worlds, the people, the Avatar, the Guardian, and the various connections between games>
I would indeed like to work with the Ultima property again, you never know what the future might hold.
Carlos from North Carolina asks:
Any chance you would take over an existing MMO based on space—such as Earth & Beyond from Electronic Arts and work your magic on it for a re-release?
Interesting suggestion, I will think about how to best share this experience with our community of gamers.
Manny from Portugal asks:
My dream job would be as a video game designer. What I can do to build my career?
There are still many areas of great opportunity in this industry. More valuable than art and programming skill alone is to know how to combine those skills to create great game play. I think places like the Guildhall at SMU are some of the few places to gain such skill. I recommend looking into formalized training in game development.
Who should be paying for space exploration—private industry or government?
I believe that the government of the people should be investing strategically on behalf of its people. And there are certain investments, such as reaching the moon for the first time, that only the power of a government can practically undertake. However, I think that it is also fair to question how much of this huge investment the taxpayer should underwrite. Of course, I have vested interests in saying this, but it’s my contention that once the strategic investment has been made, government should turn over the reigns to the private sector and let this new industry rise or fail on its own merits.
This approach has already worked in the satellite-launch business. There are many companies that compete to put up the throng of satellites that we now use around the globe. The technologies behind the systems, however, were first nurtured through government spending on defense. I believe the same thing can—and should—happen in every other aspect of space travel, other than a few “firsts” that require risky strategic investment. I also think government should always look to offload expenses to private partnerships as often as possible, which not only reduces costs, but helps grow the companies that will eventually take over from the government.
In this respect, I am a big fan of the pragmatic Russian science programs. We know they’ve started putting people up in space, but they’re also undertaking (and underwriting) important scientific expeditions with paying passengers aboard their Akademik Keldysh and MIR submersibles. Not only do passenger “fares” help offset the expense, but those passengers (like me, who’s taken four trips aboard the Keldysh) have grown into evangelists from having these experiences and gaining a unique perspective of the scientific process.
Isn’t it better (i.e., cheaper and safer) to send robots into space?
This is a common criticism when it comes to space exploration: Why should we be sending humans into space when robotic missions can usually be done far more cheaply and without the same risk of life? I still find the right response perplexing. On a purely theoretical level, it’s clearly in all our best interests to send robots out to scour the cosmos for information about our origins and the great mysteries of the Universe. But I also believe that human-led missions are just as important. Far-fetched, perhaps, but imagine if Christopher Columbus’ 15th-century voyages had been superceded by unmanned vessels that would scrape soil samples, take a few pictures, and return to an amazed European populace with confirmation that land was out there?
April from Othello, WA asks:
My sister has had cancer twice in the past 12 years, and beat it both times. Do you foresee future space missions helping to fight this terrible disease? (PS: My grandparents are the late Jim and Lavern Garriott!)
Wow! Another Garriott relation—there are few of us! Sorry to hear about the struggle of your sister. In fact, I am doing some “protein crystallography” which may have eventual impact on diseases including cancer. Basically, every biological function uses unique proteins. Often if you can shut off a protein’s function, you can stop the problem it’s causing. I am trying to show that we can grow protein crystals in space that help determine the exact structure of the molecule, which can then be used to create chemicals that act on the protein. If this works it could lead to a variety of improved therapies! Wish me luck!
Bill Steele from Irving, Texas asks:
I’m the program chairman for the Texas Chapter of The Explorers Club and would like to invite you to be our speaker sometime in early 2009 when you return from space.
I am overdue to get involved with the Explorers Club in Texas. I make the EC dinner in New York City every year. I would love to talk post flight with the Texas Chapter. See you in 2009!
Mitch from Douglasville, GA asks:
My dad was Leonard M Garriott, born in Salem, Indiana. Are we related?
I know there are Garriotts spread out farther than I would know and with the advances in information available on the Internet, I have found more and more Garriotts. I have not heard of Leonard, but since there are so few, I think that it’s very likely we are related.
Louie from Northfield, IL asks:
Regarding the educational aspect of your mission, is it possible to provide grade schools with materials regarding your mission objectives?
The best place to do that is to get into contact with the Challenger Center which is my main educational point of contact in the United States or, if you happen to be in England, the British National Space Center and through those organizations, we are developing activities for grade school students so they can follow along in my blogs, and participate in interactive Q&A sessions I’m doing online and hopefully in other ways as well.
Dmytro from Ukraine asks:
What do you think about the Russian Mars-500 project?
To be honest, I’m not familiar with the Russian Mars-500 project, but now that you’ve posted the question I will go and look it up!
David from Plymouth, MA asks:
What would it take to be able to tour Britannia Manor?
I do periodically open my home for public tours, though I haven’t done it in a couple of years. I used to do a haunted house, and I periodically do fundraisers for causes that I support and anyone who contributes to the fundraiser is welcome to come. I sometimes bring press through; there are a few video tours that are available, one made by PBS that can be tracked down. To actually come through yourself would probably require participating in one of the many function or events I throw there. The trick for that is to find out when and how they occur because they’re sporadic and I don’t have a formal way of informing people so good luck and hope to see you there!
Dennis from California asks:
I remember driving on Owen K. Garriott Blvd. in Enid, Oklahoma. Was your Dad from there?
My father, Owen, and my mother, Helen, both grew up in Enid, Oklahoma and after my Dad’s spaceflights, they named the main street Owen K. Garriott Blvd. In addition to that, my parents have built something called Leonardo’s Discovery Warehouse in Enid—a children’s hands-on arts and science center. You may know my father is heavily involved in science, and my mother is heavily involved in art (being a professional artist). In addition, Leonardo da Vinci was a central figure on my father’s and my mission patch so Leonardo, art and science figure heavily in our family history.
William from Tucson, AZ asks:
Did you want to be a NASA astronaut?
Well, I grew up believing everyone went to space. My father was an astronaut, and all my neighbors were astronauts or engineers who were heavily involved, so it was a big shock when I moved out of that neighborhood across from NASA. I realized the characters I saw on Sesame Street, the butcher, the baker, the policemen, etc., were the real people, and astronauts and engineers were less common, so it was quite a culture shock when I left. I did originally want to be an NASA astronaut, but, at a young age I was told I would not be able to due to my bad eyesight so I devoted myself to the privatization of space in order to open the doors for people who might not meet that selection criteria but still wanted to participate in this great journey of space travel.
Chaz from Atlanta, GA asks:
I noticed in your biography that you explore caves. Which ones you have been in and have you done any expedition caving?
I’ve been in a number of commercial caves, but I find it far more interesting to undertake expeditions into caves. All the caving I’ve done has been during day trips into non-commercial caves or non-commercial sections of commercial caves. I haven’t done multi-day expeditions into caves—though I would find that opportunity to be fantastic, I’ve just haven’t met groups that are in involved in that activity. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I’m adding that onto my short list of things to do in the future!
Rick from Running Springs, CA asks:
As an applicant to the first teacher-in-space opportunity, I am now wondering when, if ever, can I participate in the freefall conditions experienced by all astronauts. Being not financially able, what other route is open to one like me?
Orbit will be expensive as long as we are using chemical rockets that take their fuel and heat shield up with them. For you to get to orbit cheaply will require a major advancement in areas like space elevators or laser push style launchers. A more contemporary example is to take a Zero-g flight. There are flights available most every week! For a couple thousand dollars, you will experience the exact same weightlessness I will in space, but for 30 seconds at a time. I highly recommend it!
Dean from Melbourne, Australia asks:
Any chance you’ll take some candid photos with a digital camera while you’re up there? It will make it a little more “real” to us wannabes down here.
Yes, I’m taking lots of photos! However, what cameras will be used and how the pictures will be disseminated is still being worked out. I may have my own photo equipment and bring photos back myself and/or I may be able to use some equipment on board and download them while I’m on the mission. Those details are still in the air. Rest assured, there will be many photos!
Maciej from Poland asks:
I have been interested manned space flight history for 25 years. Can you send me an autographed Sokol portrait for my 10 year old son. He is very ill and waiting for a kidney transplant, so I would like to give him a present from you!
Yes, I would be very happy to send you and your son a Sokol photo. I know kidney issues can be very serious and I wish your son all the best, and a very speedy recovery.
Terra from CA asks:
How did you find the company you’re going to space with, and how much research was involved to find what was necessary to fulfilling your dreams of going to space?
Early on, I realized that my father was extremely lucky to have been selected as an astronaut—even though he was extremely well-prepared for the job. So I knew if I was going to go, it would not be as an astronaut selected by the government space program, it would be because private industry had succeeded in opening space to individuals. Since my earliest financial successes in the game industry, I have been investing in companies like Space Adventures (and several others) who were on the path to opening space to private citizens. I bought my ticket via Space Adventures, and I’m also one of its earliest investors.
Jason from San Antonio, Texas asks:
Did you ever think that you were going to be able to do something amazing like this? How does your father feel about what you’re doing?
Off and on. My belief that this would work out has gone up and down about every five years. When I first began to invest in the privatization of space, I figured it would be cheap and easy! I quickly learned it would be expensive and likely unfeasible. But my belief that it might become feasible has waxed and waned every few years. So I’m thrilled that now it appears that my lifelong dream will be coming true.
Josh from Pennsylvania asks:
Are you planning on doing any live video feeds from space?
Yes, I will have the ability, and do plan to do, video feeds from space. I don’t know where exactly the feed will be actually broadcast yet. Sign up for the email newsletter, and we’ll let you know. As we get closer all those details will fall into place.
Cliff from NJ asks:
I met your father during one of my trips to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. I was curious if you grew up in the area and were exposed to the Space Camp environment as well? Good Luck.
I grew up near the Johnson Space Center near Houston. This was before any Space Camps existed. I’ve been to the one in Huntsville a number of times so I am familiar with the camp and its curriculum. I am a big fan of both the facility and the inspiration it provides kids who have gotten the chance to go through its program. I come to Huntsville periodically and my father’s company, ExtremoZyme, is based in Huntsville and will be performing some of the commercial and scientific activities with me in space.
Anthony from Los Angeles, CA asks:
Do you intend, at some point in your life, to finish your college education?
Funny you should ask …
Some reading this blog may not know the story of my educational background. As you apparently know, I became one of the first computer game developers starting back in high school in the 1970’s. When I began attending college and my income was growing rapidly, my grade point average was dropping. I had a tough decision to make. Thus I dropped out mid-junior year to build my first game company Origin with my brother Robert as a partner. For years I thought I would go back to school get a degree and eventually “a real job” when the windfall of the computer games industry ran its course. But that never happened! Now, in the field of my core business there is little school has to offer me as my work is still “industry leading”. A degree for me now, if ever, would be in a new field of personal interest, perhaps astronomy. But so far, I have not found the time to pursue such an option.
Philip from Zambia asks:
What have you planned for your trip?
While games have been my vocation, civilian space travel has been something I have supported for many years. I hope that with advancements encouraged by the continuing mission of the X-Prize, and the growing business in both the orbital and suborbital areas, we can make access to space something all of us can realize at more and more affordable prices, for business and private travel. Surely this will come true, in time, I just hope to help make it a little sooner!
Michael from Austin, TX asks:
With all these interesting adventures, when will you do a reality show like Richard Branson did? Maybe with some game industry related stuff as well?
I have been a big admirer of how well Branson has leveraged his unusual businesses and hobbies in ways that built interesting businesses and interesting exploration activities. If what you suggest would be possible, I would be excited to be a part of it!
Rosie from Italy asks:
Why did you have an observatory constructed in your own home instead of using the state observatory which tracks meteorites? Do you track meteorites from your own home? Do you believe a meteorite is on its way to destroy the Earth and no one wants to tell us?
The observatory on my home is a part of the many scientific and engineering “toys” I have around my home as inspiration for my work. I only use it a few times per year.
I have friends and know of many groups doing whole sky surveys in search of asteroids that might be on a collision course with the earth. I am confident none have been found to date, as many amateurs have equipment capable of seeing such items, and amateurs are often the first to find and report comets and asteroids. So I think we are now safe for the very short term.
However your point is a very serious one. There is no question that in time, the earth will be struck by an asteroid or comet that could destroy most all life on the planet. But it could happen next year or many millions of years from now, and we do not yet have the technology to predict it, nor stop it. The great physicist Stephen Hawking has expressed his belief that mankind must become space faring just to insure the survival of our species, when someday the earth faces a cataclysmic challenge like that.
David from Califonia asks:
Richard, would you be interested in funding a private company to put a rover on the moon to win the Google X-Prize?
I am a board member of the X-Prize, so I am very interested in seeing that prize won but, unfortunately the money I have to invest in space travel is going into my own space travel so I won’t be able to back a team.
Celeste from Vero Beach, Florida asks:
How do you think your space mission will rank among your other adventures? Yes, I know it is like comparing apples and oranges, but where do you think the thrill level will rank?
Well, clearly the space expedition will be very high and dominant on the list; even though I haven’t even taken the flight yet, it’s already number one!
Martin from Missoula, Montana asks:
There was a full-size Sputnik 1 on display at the National Science Teachers Association’s National Convention in Boston a few days ago. Did that Sputnik happen to be yours? If not, do you know whose it was?
That one did not happen to be mine. I actually have two at this point and they vary form each other a little bit. One seems more like a display unit and the other one seems more like a authentic prototype or model. I have not heard of one in the STA Convention and I don’t know who it belonged to, but there are strikingly few of those in existence—especially in the West—so I am curious myself regarding its owner.
Dan from Glendale, Arizona asks:
As an avid player of the Ultima series, I am wondering if you will carry an Ankh (and maybe the Silver Serpent) into space?
Absolutely yes! The silver serpent is a permanent addition to my neck in a sense that when I made it as a youngster, I attached it in a way that didn’t include a clasp so it’s not very easy to remove. I’ve only had it off a handful of times including to send up in space with my father on a space shuttle. Otherwise it’s been with me ever since, and I will be taking it up to space for its second trip!
Janet from Clear Lake asks:
What words of wisdom would you pass along to the youth of today that would inspire them to become future space explorers?
I think the best advice I might pass along to youth is that education and learning is truly a lifelong process. Devoting yourself to understanding the Universe that we live in empowers you in astounding ways and opens the way to fundamental personal happiness that most people radically underestimate. I am not particularly highly educated in the classical sense, but I was very active as a self-studying participant. I would compete in science fairs year after year. I devoted myself to independent studies and projects which I always did with a high level of quality; this however, did not necessarily manifest good grades and ultimately, I left college half way through to pursue my career in video games. So, my recommendation is to appreciate, explore, and understand the reality in which we live in and to do that will lead to more opportunities and greater happiness in life.
Jeff from Houston, Texas asks:
I’d like to write a screenplay about your life. What do you think?
I am touched that you think I would be an interest to other people. I’ve had a pretty exciting time living through my interesting adventures—especially this upcoming spaceflight so I would love to talk about that sometime.
Fabiano from Lisbon, Portugal asks:
Do you have plans to make contact with us via amateur radio while in space?
I will be making open QSO’s on many occasions. I hope we get to chat!
Jeremi from VA asks:
I’m an artist that makes horror dolls, and I was curious if you may have collected one that’s displayed in your dungeon room?
Yes, the one in the dungeon I bought on eBay is part of my dungeon collection. Drop me a note to Space Adventures and they can forward to me post flight.
September from Janesville, Wisconsin asks:
Ever visit the beautiful Hindu temple in Houston, TX? Also, have you considered the meeting point between Grand Strategy games and role-playing games?
I have not. We also have one in Austin that is beautiful. I do think that strategy and RPG games can and should overlap more.
MR from California asks:
Life is so precious and this is earth is so beautiful. Nature keeps giving and giving to us so we can survive. Has being in space and seeing our planet kindled any similar thoughts for you?
I was skeptical, but it absolutely did! I plan to write extensively on this subject soon.
Tim from Titusville, FL asks:
As an astronaut, has your Dad given you any special advice to help you prepare for your journey?
Absolutely! My dad is actually my chief scientist and has helped me put together my entire science program—especially some commercial science work such as protein crystal growth. He’s also helped me put together programs for HAM radio, earth observation, and even helped get some of the educational stuff on track. I’m actually quite excited to work with my dad in ways we haven’t been able to previously.
Williame from London, Kensington, UK asks:
Have men and women ever copulated in outer space? Were any children born?
I am confident no children were born; while there are no official reports of men and women ever copulating in space, I would be very, very surprised if it hasn’t been attempted since there have been so many mixed gender crews in space. However, procreation and embryonic development in outer space is probably a very bad idea. I would not have suspected that 10 years ago, but as I learned more about the unique aspects of microgravity, discovered more about cell development and cell function in microgravity, and saw studies and reports about how cellular development and embryonic development is significantly altered by the microgravity development, I think it will be a long time ’til people are actually procreating in outer space.
Max from Gloucester, UK asks:
Will you be continuing Owen’s first of amateur radio from space?
Absolutely! In fact, I think it’s a great opportunity to be able to follow in my father’s footsteps and do some HAM radio communication from space. And, I already know the HAM community thinks it’s a fun thing to do as well. Twenty-five years later, there are still a lot of people around who had the chance to connect or attempt to connect with my Dad, so this is a rare opportunity for me those on the ground to do the same with generation two.
Cynthia from China asks:
What’s the expected benefit from your space travel?
During my time in space, I believe I can prove I can do activities that are far more interesting and useful than mere tourism. Though I think the joy of living and working in space will be a great joy in itself, this opportunity would be wasted if I didn’t find a way to generate as much public and commercial benefit from it. To that end, I am doing a variety of things including commercial activities such as protein crystal growth, environmental activities such Earth Observation photography, and educational activities through my connections with the Challenger Center and the British National Space Center.
James Bray from Dorset, England asks:
How long are you planning to spend on the International Space Station?
It will be approximately ten days. From launch it will take about eight minutes to get from 0 MPH to 17210 MPH in orbit. It will then take about two days to synchronize speeds and positions with the ISS in order to dock. I will then have about eight more days on the space station and then once we undock it will be just a few hours until we are back on the ground—including eight minutes of high-g deceleration in the earth’s atmosphere.
Layne Zuelke from Baton Rouge, Louisiana asks:
Can you fill us in on how your time will be balanced while on the ISS? How will your typical day in Space unfold?
Each day on the ISS will be scheduled carefully, and the reason for this is: when you’re traveling at 17210 mph around the surface of the earth, if any of your events are dependent on where you are over the Earth, you have to have equipment that needs to be set up at the right place at right time to succeed. In my case, many such events are including Earth Observation photography and HAM radio contacts happen at very specific moments in the day.
My days are broken up with several activities. I may spend the beginning of the day with a HAM radio contact, so for that 30 minute block, I’ll spend time preparing the HAM radio rig and cameras, then actually perform, and then stow that equipment before moving to another activity, say, Earth Observation. For that, I would set up my laptop with its targeting software, set up my camera and lenses, and go through that pass which may give me 10-20 minutes of photography until I’m back out over the ocean again where there may not be interesting targets. Then, when there are no HAM radio contacts or targets to take photos of, I will take that time to film one of my educational activities where I will set up a backdrop in a quiet part of the space station and do some video blogging; then it may be time to get back to the window again to do more HAM radio or photo. It will continue like this for each of the eight days that I’m scheduled for.
Si from Adelaide, Australia asks:
What are your thoughts and actions on the environmental impact of your trip into space? How can we limit the damage caused by the increasing amount of space-travel?
You must be familiar with the current belief that high traveling vehicles dumping carbon and other emissions higher in the atmosphere are potentially doing more damage than vehicles that are traveling on the ground. My belief, based on limited scientific data, is the amount of pollutants made by the astonishing amount of cars and other ground based polluters is still substantially in excess of those happening in the air. Though airplanes are very common, space ships are very uncommon, and even to the degree they pollute, they put out far less carbon and pollutants (especially the Soyuz) than most other experiences you might be familiar with.
In my search for environmental activities to support with my flight, we looked into carbon issues and solar power issues and found a group that converts kerosene to solar power. It turns out that the amount of kerosene burned and carbon emitted by single family dwellings is enormous in comparison to a Soyuz launch. While the Soyuz will be emitting carbon, I have purchased carbon offsets for my flight that are being invested in areas such as solar power which I believe is a good counter investment of offset that pollution.
Caitlin Benton from Austin, TX asks:
Will you be conducting any experiments related to alternative energy?
Alternative energy is a personal interest, though I don’t have any alternative energy experiments that I will be conducting in space; however, Space Adventures is developing some experiments that we may be able to perform with some of our future flyers.
Toryn from Arlington Heights, IL asks:
What kind of scientific endeavors do you plan to undertake on board the space station? Are there communication links on the ISS that allow Internet access?
I have some very interesting scientific endeavors. Most interesting is an experiment called protein crystal growth in which I will take a container of small tubes, and in those tubes are frozen samples of protein molecules and precipitant. When I get to orbit, I will allow it to thaw and a reaction will take place where the protein molecules will hopefully form small crystal structures. I’ll return them to the Earth which they will be then put into machines that will image them with X-rays which will hopefully give you the molecular structure of the protein which is extremely valuable to pharmaceutical companies.
On the subject of internet, the ISS has surprisingly effective IP connectivity but not direct access to the Internet. I’ve been on the ground and heard conversations on the IP phone. Overall, is it actually really easy for people to communicate from the ground to the space station and vice versa.
Kevin from California asks:
Will you be using any of your video game expertise in space?
Well interestingly, flying a space capsule is a lot like playing a video game. There is a cockpit with a screen and joystick to move around while pressing various buttons. There’s effectively a joystick for navigation during reentry and even the training on which button to press and which switches to throw at the same time can easily be seen as playing a large video game. This is, however, playing out in reality, and there is a large amount of safety involved to make sure you do it right. While my video gaming background has been helpful, a lot of the details are quiet different.
Chris Faranetta from Alexandria, VA asks:
Why are you conducting protein crystal experiments on your mission when NASA has already extensively studied this area and achieved lackluster results?
Well, it turns out when NASA did these test 20-30 years ago, imaging technology on the ground was not capable of taking advantage of the purity of the crystals that were going to space. More contemporarily, the Japanese, through their JAXA space program, have taken up protein crystallization labs and have had very, very good results from better technology that has been developed over the last few decades. So I have high confidence that this will be useful science. In fact, a lot of pharmaceutical companies have signed up to participate in getting structures crystallized in space.
Hal from Austin asks:
Do you consider yourself a “space advocate” in general? That is, do you favor seeing space opened up to everyone, and humans living on other worlds?
Yes, absolutely, but with a very important constraint. I believe that humanity’s destiny is to develop the technology and tools to travel further and further into space, so I believe that we ultimately will, provided that certain political realties or time tables become real on earth. That being said, I believe government (i.e., taxpayer funded) investment into space will always open new horizons, but once it comes to staying on the Moon, Mars, or in orbit, private industry must take over. If there is no value to society paying the taxes to be returned from space, the government should definitely not be keeping stations there. On the other hand, if it’s economically viable to have a station in space, private enterprise should come in. So I’m a huge advocate, but I am also an advocate for strategic investment from government and the will of the people in opening new frontiers with private industry following behind to reach new frontiers.
Liz from Houston, TX asks:
What has your father shared with you in terms of advice?
Yes, as you might expect, my Dad has proven to be an invaluable member of my team, primarily as the science advisor. One of the more difficult aspects for the previous spaceflight participants has been putting together a science program that could be accomplished as well as being scientifically important. Fortunately I’ve got someone who’s been there and done that and can give me great advice as to the things that are both worth doing as well as items that can be accomplished by a non-professional astronaut such as myself.
In addition, other types of specific advice from my father have to do with schedule management in space. My Dad already knows very well how easy or difficult it is to accomplish relatively simple tasks in space. And while some people have advised me to actually make sure I reserve plenty of non-work time in space to take in the sights and sounds, my father, I think, has given me pretty good advice about making sure I stay busy with all the things that you can accomplish while in space, as that is what makes the time most interesting as well as valuable. So I’m looking forward to having a very full schedule of scientific and educational activities that I hope to perform.
David from St. Paul, Minnesota asks:
Have you ever met Sergei Volkov? You will be flying only six months after he launched as part of Expedition 17. It looks now as if you will fly home with him and Oleg. I hope that your fathers will be there to greet you on your return!
I have not yet met Sergei Volkov, although I am very much looking forward to meeting him. I suspect I’ll meet him in January or February in Russia. I am thrilled that we are both getting a chance to be on the ISS at the same time and return from space together next October. I think it’s pretty cool that Sergei as the first second generation Russian and me as the first second generation American will get a chance to travel together. It’s very exciting.
Dimitri from Montreal, canada asks:
What can you tell me about what the basic requirements are from a physical standpoint, and what risks I would be facing from a mechanical standpoint?
From a physical standpoint, as long as you are in reasonably good physical health, that’s basically all that is required. While the environment of micro-gravity is somewhat stressful on the human body for long duration missions, for 10 day missions, you can probably tolerate the conditions quite well as long as you are reasonably healthy. The main thing they want to make sure of is that you won’t have any emergency medicine needs because obviously it’s very difficult to bring medical attention to you.
From a risk standpoint, of course flying into space uses some very extreme methods. For example, launching from 0 mph to 17,000 mph uses a very large volume of fuel that is burned very quickly, so there is some inherent danger in that sequence in events. Also, outside the space craft walls is the hard vacuum of space which is obviously a difficult place to survive in, so it’s quite important the hulls and seals from the docking ports work very well.
From a reentry standpoint, you have to burn off that energy from traveling 17,000 mph to get back to traveling 0 mph when you reach earth and that is another complex sequence of events. So all three main phases have difficulty or dangers associated with them, but the great news is that the Soyuz launch system has evolved over the last 30 to 35 years and is continually updated and improved step by step with each vehicle—and the great part about that is that they now have a 30 year track record of 100% safety so if you are going to do this inherently difficult and dangerous activity, the Soyuz spacecraft is a great choice to get there.
Scott from Wigan, UK asks:
Are you scared, or have you gone beyond any emotion imaginable?
Of course I’m getting excited about the flight, and it’s a reasonable question to ask if I’m getting scared or getting any form of trepidation or any other style of emotional response; however, I’m told by my predecessors that by the time you think the fear would kick in, you get so caught up in activities getting ready for the launch, you don’t have time to be fearful. So you’ll have to wait until after the launch to see if that’s also true for me.
Virginia from NYC asks:
Hi there, I’ve read on a few sites that you are making a documentary about your space travels. Can you tell me more?
While precise details of what we will do is yet to be clarified, I am well aware of the fact that this is a very unusual opportunity that I am involved in, and I want to have it documented. We are being very diligent about recording all aspects of this year’s experience, and we’re in talks now with outlets that will be able to make it available to the public, but that is not yet announced.
Tracy from Fresno, CA asks:
You’re definitely the envy of my husband who would love to skydive from the space shuttle. What will you be doing up there in space, and will you be incorporating that knowledge into your games?
I, too, am a skydiver! I have even jumped from a relatively high altitude balloon so I understand your husband’s desire to jump from space. I’m sure he has realized that it isn’t the outer space altitude that’s the problem; the fact that our orbital velocity incurs giant heat dispersal is the problem.
My trip consists of three main components:
First and foremost is commercial activity that provides enough value to prove that human space travel is worth investing in. As a private citizen, versus a tax payer-funded astronaut, I will have some unique freedoms in my pursuit of commercial activity. I have some fundamental scientific research I will be performing. I also plan to work on some educational projects.
Robert Baumann from Norcross, Ga asks:
What is the nature of your physical training? How hard has it been?
The bulk of my training is just about to start. I will try to provide more details on that as I get into the thick of the educational and physical training. That said, while I’ve always considered myself reasonably in shape, and I work out regularly, I significantly increased my personal physical training last year to include not only the 3 times per week I work out at a local boxing gym (which I’ve been doing for the past 12 years), but I’ve also added running 10-20 miles a week, when possible.
John from Austin, TX asks:
Do you have any plans for participating in and/or funding your own private space development venture—perhaps competing for the new Lunar-X Prize?
Good question! I have been one of the main supporters of the X-Prize since its inception. So, I’ve been on the other side of the table as the prize provider rather than a competitor for the X-Prize activities. I think it is cool that so many high tech entrepreneurs are getting into the space race like John Carmack with Armadillo Aerospace or Amazon’s Jeff Bezos with Blue Origin.
Rosie Kathy from Italy asks:
What is the space diet? Is there a diet you should follow one year before you go into space? What happens to your body while in space? Have doctors looked into food consumption in space and how gluten and sugars affect your body in space?
Human physiology in space was studied beginning with my dad’s work on Skylab and continues to this day. It is a very active research area even now, and there are some scientific activities in this area that I’ll be involved in during my flight.
Dietary preparations involved before the flight will be minimal, and so far have been none. During flight, the main food issues seem to be associated with the preparation of the food for a zero-g environment, rather than significant change in dietary habits. However, there are significant physiological changes that happen to humans during their stay in a weightless environment.
Dietary considerations will likely become a bigger and bigger factor as people remain in space for longer and longer durations. Bone loss of calcium begins almost immediately and continues throughout your stay in space. Exercise can slow it but not arrest the process. Muscle atrophy also begins immediately. Most interestingly, there appears to be some chance that bacteria in your body might change or evolve in unexpected ways while you and your bacteria live together in space. Isn’t that odd?
As you alluded to, I am very excited to have my father as my chief science officer and mentor during my flight. It has provided us a great opportunity to get close as adults.
Bayard from Hendersonville, NC asks:
Have you earned an amateur radio license yet? If so, what’s your call sign?
I got my license a few months ago, and now use call sign W5KWQ. This was my grandfather’s call sign. When I was growing up my father (W5LFL) and grandfather (W5KWQ) got HAM licenses together and have been life long HAM’s. You may know my father took the 1st HAM radio into space aboard STS-9. In addition to being the first second generation American astronaut, I am looking forward to repeating his HAM activities on orbit!
Lynn from Marion, Indiana asks:
What do you think about the alteration of the strain of salmonella while in Space? Does that concern you that something in space might alter your chemistry?
The experiment you are referring to was called SPEGIS. I think that is one of the most surprising and interesting experiments I have heard about in recent years! While I am not worried about the implications of that experiment for short duration flyers like myself, I do think this is an area of concern for long duration activities like travel to Mars or beyond! I don’t think I have met Lynn Johnson, but I too have found astronauts to be an interesting lot!
Emma from London asks:
Has there been a lot of interest in becoming a back up for your orbital spaceflight mission? Have any well-known public figures expressed an interest?
Well, in fact, I do have a back up on my flight, his name is Nik Halik. If you Google him, you will find out he is a well known public figure in the financial strategy areas. He publishes books and gives seminars on financial strategies. He is a very interesting guy—another adventurer, like myself. In fact, we have both done many of the same things previously. We’ve both been down to the Titanic, we’ve both witnessed the X-Prize flights, we both have been previously here in Russia to fly MiG’s and Zero-G parabolas, so we’re kindred spirits in many ways and we’ve been training together now since January.
Sven from Germany asks:
Which facilities do you plan to use for your planned research? Will there be a more detailed research plan and do you plan to use part of the new European Columbus module?
As you know the Columbus module has just gone up! Most of the experiments I do will be in the Russian segments as they are my hosts. However, I am in negotiations now to do work with US and EU scientists, if we come to agreements that could mean access to their modules as well. We should have the full experiment load posted before flight. Plus I will see if I can get my daily chores published too, so you will know where on the station to find me.
John from Dallas, TX asks:
On your trip up and back in the Soyuz, how much room do you have to move around (if any), and what do you do to pass the time?
The Soyuz descent module, where you also sit during launch is very tight! I just sat in it for the first time a couple days ago. It was so tight, it was hard to imagine moving much at all! For the two days after launch until we dock with the ISS, we have much more room in the habitation module, which as about a 6’ sphere. Not much more space, but considering the tight space before, plenty! Plus for those two days I will already start experiments, so I don’t expect much free time! If I do get free time, I have an iPod and a book or two. I’m sure that looking out the window will be my favorite past-time—and talking on HAM radio to people across the globe.
Helena from Kent, UK asks:
What are your objectives behind the mission and will you be taking any items on board to mark your expedition?
I have a number of key objectives. First and foremost, I want to prove that the few of us who can privately finance our way into space aren’t doing it just as a personal jaunt and waste of hard-earned capital. Instead, I want to be a productive and useful member of the crew and contribute to science and educational outreach. I think this will be measured not as hypothetical results, but in direct commercial activity, direct contact with school children around the globe, etc. I want to involve as many people as possible in the processes of space travel, and will be providing video blogs of many of my in-space activities, some of which have been developed by students.
Victor from Irkutsk, Siberia, Russia asks:
How did you decide to follow your father, famous astronaut Owen Garriott, in space? Are your going to repeat similar scientific experiments in space?
I think all kids go through a period of time when they briefly decide they want to become an astronaut and I was one of those kids, but I think the reason why I kept the interest with me has to do with the time when one of the NASA physicians told me I wouldn’t be selected as an astronaut because of my poor eyesight. Instead of taking “No” as an answer (I’ve always been known to buck the system), I devoted myself to the privatization of space, which allows private citizens like myself to have access to space, and so I invested in it since I was young.
As for experiments, yes, I am actually doing a protein crystal growth experiment which is directly related to an experiment my father did on the Space Shuttle and the educational videos I am filming are direct ancestors of a lot of the similar work my Dad did on Skylab.
Rex Romaine from Portland, OR asks:
If you had a battery-powered remote-controlled GYRO put in a box that you would strap to your feet, could you fly in weightlessness by shifting your feet forward and back, up and down?
Because GYROs remain solid, if you had a massive or fast enough spinning GYRO, would mean as you angled your foot, your body would spin around the stationary gyro, I don’t think it will help you translate. Translating GYROs doesn’t do anything to stabilize against translation. It’s a very interesting proposal and I think it would solve half the problem you are trying to solve but it’s too large physically for me to take up to test and I also don’t think it will solve the problem entirely.
Jon Bosley from Waco, Texas asks:
What will the moon look from orbit? Will you take a picture and post it on return?
That is a darn good question! I will in fact take pictures of the moon; it’s something that struck me as interesting. Of course the haze is diminished so the stars will look much brighter in the Milky Way, but the Moon itself is bright enough that it would penetrate the cloudy Earth atmosphere, so I’m not sure the Moon will look that much different at orbital altitude. If you compare it to a classroom globe, it’s really the width of a nickel thick compared to a 12 inch globe. When you compare the distance, it’s inconsequential. It’s really only the atmosphere that you don’t have to look through. I don’t know what it will look like but I’m excited to take pictures and comment when I return.
Razimus from California asks:
Will you be allowed to bring a camera with you into space?
Absolutely yes! In fact, Earth observation photography is one of my main activities. I’m trying to repeat a lot the same shots my Dad took on Skylab which were some of the first ever earth observation photos taken with an extended stay in space that Skylab was able to do and I’m hoping I will be able to show how the Earth has changed in just one generation of spaceflight.
John from London, UK asks:
Hi Richard, I see that Seiko has designed a special watch for you to wear during your time in space. Could you give some background as to how this joint project came about?
Seiko has been developing the Seiko Spring Drive Spacewalk for some years now as an engineering proof of concept to show they can make a watch that will survive and work well for astronauts in the vacuum and extreme temperatures during the space walk.
Helmut Heisig from Stuttgart,Germany asks:
Richard,are you worried because of the cosmic radiation in space? Is there protection for the astronauts?
In fact, cosmic radiation is considerably higher in space, and I know that those going for long duration flights get their lifetime X-ray dosage in those 1 or 2 long duration flights. Most people don’t do more than three long duration flights because they believe that is the radiation limit. Also, those doing spacewalks get particularly heavy radiation especially close to the South Atlantic Anomaly where the dosages are even higher where the Earth’s magnetic field is particularly low. In my case, a short duration flight will have minimal radiation effect.
Kristin from Clinton, NY asks:
I’m interested to know what changes bacteria go through while an astronaut and his bacteria live together in space.
Well that is a very, very interesting and provocative question. As it turns out, it is one that is of great scientific inquest now. There is a history of immune depression that goes on during space. All people that are carrying viruses that are usually suppressed by your immune system, such as chicken pox and herpes, can have outbreaks in space because the immune function decreases. Furthermore, the actual biological function of bacteria increases, so that is being studied in depth right now.
Jeel from London asks:
What new skills do you wish to gain from the space mission?
One big one is learning my first foreign language—in this case Russian. While all of the crew members speak English, during launch and reentry, the commands from mission control come up in Russian and all the instruments onboard the spacecraft are in Russian. So there is at least a working knowledge of Russian that is useful to have. It is one of the skills I’m working hard to achieve a reasonable level of mastery.
Debbie from Little Rock, AR asks:
Would you consider publishing a book of photos?
Well in fact, Earth Observation photography is one of the primary activities we’re doing with the intention of publishing. The Skylab era was the first time America had long-term outposts in space, and was the first opportunity to do Earth Observation. My father was one of the first people ever to get to do that. Thirty-five years later, I’m going to re-shoot, with the intention of showing how the Earth has changed in those 35 years. I’ve been working very closely with a non-profit organization as well as getting input from NASA’s Earth Observation team to go through the Skylab archives and determine what photos are available and what photos will be interesting to re-shoot during my flight.
Andy (G0SFJ) from UK asks:
Many radio “hams” like me look out for the ISS and talk direct to the astronauts, using our equipment and the ARISS transceiver on board. Do you have a ham radio license and will you take some time to use the equipment?
I do have a license. My father took the first HAM radio into space with him aboard Spacelab-1 or STS-9 and almost exactly 25 years later, I will get to transmit from space myself. My call sign is “W5KWQ” and his is “W5LFL”—I actually got the call sign that was originally assigned to my grandfather! So it’s a great opportunity for the two of us to be able to talk from space. We’ll be the first second generation of HAM operators from space.
Pierre-M. from Lausanne, Switzerland asks:
I’ve seen you are wearing several watches on your wrist during your mission. What are these for? Do you wear the famous Omega “Moonwatch”?
I was wearing four Seiko Spring Drive Space Walk Watches, and my TMA 13 Commander Yuri Lonchakov will take it on a space walk soon. It was specially designed for the space environment, and I wore it and recorded performance results throughout my training and flight. It is an amazing watch!
Jeanne from Germany asks:
Do you think there is intelligent life out there somewhere and do you think they know we are here?
I believe that advanced life is likely to exist elsewhere in the universe, but do not think they yet know of our existence. I saw no UFO’s in space, but I did film a Sci-Fi movie aboard the ISS, where my crew mates thought I was an alien!
R. J. from New Zealand asks:
There have been a number of cosmonauts and astronauts who have come forward talking about UFO’s and aliens. You’re father was an astronaut, and you have been into space now, so what are your views?
Before flight, I told people who asked about this that I would report honestly about anything I saw. I saw nothing that would support or imply the existence of UFO’s, nor any secrets through my training or flight of any kind of hidden knowledge in that area. I do believe life is out there, though I don’t think we have found out about each other yet.
Fabiano from Lisbon, Portugal asks:
What impact did the amateur radio contacts have on you aboard the ISS?
Wow! It is hard to describe how moved I was by my contacts with the HAM community. It literally brought me to tears to realize how well connected the world wide HAM community is, and how many of them paid attention to my time on orbit. I received many kind remarks from individuals and schools about my work, and redoubled my efforts to do a good job for the HAM community!
Leslie from Lincolnshire U.K. asks:
How did your body cope with returning to Earth and being affected by gravity again? How are Sergei and Yuri adjusting back life on earth? How would you rate life on the ISS? How would you describe your re-entry experience?
The effects on the body of living in 0g, as well as coming back to 1g, were greater than I expected. While I was mercifully free from motion related sickness, I did have major “fluid shift” issues including a multi-day headache. Upon return, even after only 12 days, my legs were very heavy and my balance was way off. Sergey and Oleg were much worse off after 6 months in space! The smells on orbit were normally minimal, but we did have an electrical short which added some odor for a couple days. While the dangers of the environment were easy to consider, you do not feel it on orbit. Reentry was amazing—the fiery dive, the raucous deployment of the parachute, and the final “car wreck” of a landing—all amazing!