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Legendary computer game developer Richard Garriott has returned to Earth after visiting the International Space Station as a working tourist.
Space Adventures Ltd., the commercial company that helped send Garriott to the space station, announced Friday that he had returned safely to Kazakhstan aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft with Expedition 17 crewmembers Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, who spent six months on the space station.
Garriott, son of NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, became the first second-generation astronaut; Volkov is the first second-generation cosmonaut.
"This mission to the ISS fulfilled a lifelong dream to experience spaceflight as my father first did 35 years ago; it's an honor to be the first American to follow a parent into space," Garriott said in a statement.
He said the experience was more gratifying than anything he could have imagined.
"While in space, I had the opportunity to conduct scientific experiments and environmental research, but what was most rewarding was speaking to students," he said. "Growing up in an astronaut family, I firmly believed that every person could go to space, and now I have. I took this opportunity to inspire them with my adventure and let them know they can achieve their wildest dreams as well with hard work and perseverance."
After training with Space Adventures in Russia, Garriott " developer of the highly successful Ultima video games -- launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-13 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Oct. 12, with Expedition 18 crewmembers Mike Fincke and Yuri Lonchakov. They arrived at the space station two days later.
Garriott communicated with students through a NASA teleconference, ham radio downlinks, and videotaped experiments. He worked with NASA and the European Space Agency to study the effects of spaceflight on the body. He also took photographs of ecologically significant places so The Nature Conservancy can compare them to photos taken by his father 35 years ago. He also tested products for sponsors.
Now back on solid ground, Garriott plans to continue to share his experiences on his site, expanding upon his time aboard the space station and providing insights into his landing and return to Earth.