Space Tourist Ready for Bumpy Ride

APGarriott showing his Soyuz badge Tuesday at the Gagarin training center.
STAR CITY, Moscow Region -- A Texan space tourist said Tuesday that he was undaunted by two previous jolting re-entries by Russia's Soyuz capsule and was looking forward to conducting his own science experiments in space.

Richard Garriott, a video game developer from Austin, Texas, will pay a reported $35 million to fly into space next month alongside a NASA astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut headed to the international space station.

After 10 days in space, Garriott, whose father is a retired NASA astronaut with two space flights, will return to Earth with the station's old crew aboard a Soyuz re-entry vehicle, a three-man capsule that has not worked properly in its last two flights.

In April, a Soyuz capsule landed about 420 kilometers off course in the Kazakh steppe after explosive bolts failed to detonate ahead of reentry into the Earth's atmosphere, sending the craft into a steep descent. Last year, a Soyuz capsule carrying Malaysia's first astronaut also made a so-called "ballistic" landing, deviating from its landing zone by 200 kilometers and subjecting the crew to enormous gravitational forces. Faulty bolts were also blamed.

"I personally don't think of a ballistic entry as a problem. It is not a particularly abnormal form of re-entry," Garriott told a news conference at the Gagarin cosmonaut training center outside Moscow.

The Federal Space Agency conducted an investigation into the cause of the ballistic landings, and in July two cosmonauts aboard the station removed an explosive bolt for study back on Earth.