For eight years, they thundered aloft in cramped Russian spacecraft from a former Soviet spaceport in Kazakhstan, battling bureaucracy and gravity to blaze a trail across the heavens and redefine what it meant to be a space traveler. No longer would access to orbit be limited to highly trained astronauts chosen on merit and working on behalf of their nations; instead, space would be open to any sufficiently healthy people with enough money and moxie to qualify.
Space tourist Richard Garriott and cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko have landed safely in a Soyuz spacecraft in Central Asia. Early reports are that all three space travelers felt fine after returning to Earth from the International Space Station.
Garriott and Volkov are both second-generation space travelers. Richard’s father, Owen, flew aboard Skylab and the space shuttle. Oleg’s father Alexander flew aboard the Mir space station in 1991.
Russian technicians have rolled out a Soyuz rocket to the launch pad for an historic liftoff that will send the first South Korean and the first second-generation cosmonaut into orbit.
Yi So-yeon, a South Korean bioengineering student, will join cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko on a Soyuz TMA-12 flight to the International Space Station.
Volkov is the first second-generation space explorer. His father Alexander logged 391 days in space on three flights during the 1980’s and 1990’s. He was on hand Saturday to watch his son’s Soyuz rocket rolled out to the launch pad under a clear blue sky.
Sergei Volkov will become the first second-generation space traveler next month when he blasts off on an 11-day mission to the International Space Station.
The 34-year-old Russian cosmonaut will follow in the footsteps of his father, Alexander, who took off for the space station Mir in October 1991. By the time he returned in March 1992, the Soviet Union had collapsed and he had become a Russian citizen.
Sergei Volkov will fly to the station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft with fellow Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and South Korea’s first astronaut, Yi So Yeon, a nano-technology engineer.
â€œI just want to perform as well as my father, because there are things that he has done that nobody has been able to copy,â€ Mr Volkov told The Times of London. â€œThere are a lot of men here who trained me who were around to train my father, and sometimes, even involuntarily, they will say: ‘Well, today you did better than your Dad’. But in spite of that, as a professional I can only hope to earn as many accolades and achieve as much as my father did.â€