Next space tourist is second-generation astronaut

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MOSCOW, Sep 29 (Reuters) Richard Garriott, a US video game developer, is set to fly as a tourist to the International Space Station next year to become the first second-generation astronaut, Space Adventures tour agency said.

The company, which specialises in arranging space tours for wealthy clients, said Garriott had begun preparations for the flight. His father, Owen Garriott, was a NASA astronaut in the 1970s and 80s aboard Skylab II and Spacelab-1.

''Because of my career, it was almost natural for Richard to be interested in space and exploration. I am so pleased that he is able to embrace this himself and that he is dedicating his flight to research,'' Owen Garriott said in the Space Adventures press release.

Richard Garriott made his fortune developing video games and lives in an eccentric house with an observatory and a dungeon in Austin, Texas.

Space Adventures said Garriott, who plans to team up with a research agency and carry out scientific experiments on the ISS, will become the first in a series of ''commercially active'' space tourists.

The company did not specify how Garriott would reach the orbiting space station, but all previous space tours have been made on Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

So far five space tourists, who have paid up to million each, have travelled to the ISS, four U.S. citizens and one South African.

Garriott's website www.richardinspace.com says he plans to travel to the ISS in October 2008.

But Russia has unveiled plans to send up its own first space tourist -- a 40-year-old grocery tycoon and parliamentary deputy, Vladimir Gruzdev, who may fly to the ISS in September 2008 or March 2009.

REUTERS SW RK0933

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