Space tourist Richard Garriott is back on Earth after spending 12 days in the cosmos.
Garriott and two Russian Expedition 17 crew members of the International Space Station (ISS) landed their Soyuz TMA 13 spacecraft in Kazakhstan at 11:37 Eastern Daylight Time last night, according to NASA. Sergei Volkov, commander of the 17th team to live and work in the station, and flight engineer Oleg Kononeko had spent more than six months there.
Garriott, a 47-year-old video game developer, paid $30 million for the trip through Space Adventures, Ltd., which arranges orbital travel for private citizens. He's the son of Skylab 3 crew member Owen Garriott and the sixth-ever space tourist. Garriott wasn't able to join NASA as an astronaut because of vision problems.
"This mission to the ISS fulfilled a lifelong dream to experience spaceflight as my father first did 35 years ago," Garriott said in a statement. "It's an honor to be the first American to follow a parent into space. Growing up in an astronaut family, I firmly believed that every person could go to space, and now I have."
Garriott shot photos of Earth that he'll compare with images his father photographed in 1973, and participated in a series of scientific experiments, including research into the effects of microgravity on his eyesight, which had been corrected by laser surgery. He also studied how spaceflight affects sleep and the immune system.
An American and two Russians remain on the space station, prepping it for a long-term stay by six astronauts beginning next spring.
(Richard Garriott, right, with Expedition 18 crewmembers Michael Fincke, left, and Yury Lonchakov, center/NASA/Victor Zelentsov)