Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission

I had the opportunity to attend the world premier of an independent documentary called Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission while at SXSW this year. All I knew about this films going in to it was that it was about the son of an astronaut who go to go into space. Right there you’ve got me hooked. I’ve followed the US Space program since before the first Space Shuttle launch. Richard Garriott is an interesting character. The movie starts with his father Owen Garriott who was a Skylab 3 and Shuttle STS-9 astronaut. Richard wrote a little game for the Apple ][ called Akalabeth which he self published with an investment in ziploc bags and floppy disks. He later went on to create the Ultima series. I remember selling his games years later when he was known as Lord British. That name may mean something for anyone who played computer games in the 80’s. He was also an SCA member at t.u.Richard took his earnings from the young online gaming industry and has invested them in life experiences. The movie showcases his joie de vivre. It was a natural extension of him to spend $30 million dollars for a 12 day excursion into orbit. As one of the first space tourists he is cutting a path for future explorers.

If you haven’t heard of this little film, I highly recommend it. It was directed by Mike Woolf. I do not expect you will see in in a theater near you. Please add it to your NetFlix queue to encourage NetFlix to pick it up for distribution. My favorite parts of this film were getting to see inside the Russian space program. The Космонавт traditions were fascinating such as letting them pee on the bus tires before boarding the rocket.

It was also interesting to see the differences between our program and theirs. The Russians are really good at getting things done. For example NASA uses a Crawler to transport the full assembled rocket from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to the launch pad. This massive tractor is incredible in scale in every way. It carried the fully assembled and loaded Saturn V rockets as well as the Space Shuttles to the Pad. It keeps itself level even when climbing up the hill. The Russians opted for a much more simple solution: they use a train. The move their rocket to the pad on a train and raise it into position only once it has reached the launch pad.

Naturally the film includes a launch sequence as well as an explanation of how the Russian rocket system works which is quite different from what we are used to seeing in our rockets.

Here is the summary from the NetFlix page.

Fulfilling a lifelong dream, computer game creator Richard Garriott becomes the first second-generation American astronaut as his $30 million ticket and secret Moscow training puts him aboard the Russian Soyuz rocket for a 12-day journey into space. Go along on his amazing ride as he orbits Earth on the International Space Station, performs experiments designed by his scientist-astronaut father, and returns with a harrowing and fiery re-entry.

–from Netflix

Present at the screening in addition to Lord British was Mike Fincke along with his wife, Renita Fincke and kids. Mike Fincke has been to the International Space Station (ISS) twice although both time on Soyuz rockets. He will return again this Summer on one of the last Space Shuttle launches. An interesting thing about Mike Fincke is that he once had a bit part in the final episode of Enterprise, These Are the Voyages…, playing an Engineer.

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