Tourist Touts Commercial Space

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By Jefferson Morris

NEW YORK - Space tourist Richard Garriott believes an "inflection point" is coming in which the cost of access to space will drop low enough to reveal a variety of viable new commercial space ventures beyond just tourism or communications.

An entrepreneur who made his fortune in the computer game industry, Garriott took his first trip to space last October, flying on a Russian Soyuz vehicle to the International Space Station and spending 12 days in orbit.

He said he has spent nearly all of his time since his trip traveling the world to speak about his experiences, and has met with entrepreneurial space companies such as fledgling launch provider SpaceX, space tourism company Virgin Galactic, Armadillo Aerospace and others.

"I am now completely convinced that many of these ventures are going to be not just slightly successful but extraordinarily successful," Garriott said during remarks at the Space Foundation's Space Business Forum here June 4.

Picking up a theme from an earlier presentation, Garriott said that the "New Space" movement toward "democratizing" space access "will not be stopped. And 'Old Space' has two choices -they can either elect to support it ... or they can ignore it and actively work against it, which will clearly slow it down but not stop it. It's one of those 'Lead, follow or get out of the way' moments, which I really believe is happening right now."

Garriott raised millions to offset the cost of his estimated $30 million ticket through a number of commercial partnerships. He performed protein crystal growth research on the space station, tested a Seiko watch designed for space, and worked with DHL.

Garriott was an original investor in Space Adventures, which arranged his trip as the sixth space tourist. He was originally slated to be the first space tourist, but sold his ticket to Dennis Tito following the collapse of the dotcom bubble.

Meanwhile, Space Adventures just announced its latest client - Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte, who would be the first Canadian space tourist.

Richard Garriott photo: NASA

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