Back to the moon? Austin astronaut Richard Garriott talks space travel with FOX 7

Richard "Lord British" Garriott is an Austin icon: Creator of the classic video game "Ultima" and pioneer of the commercial space flight industry.

Garriott wanted to follow in his dad's footsteps, Astronaut Dr. Owen Garriott.  But when he was still just a kid, a NASA doctor told him because he needed glasses he wouldn't be eligible.

"You know after going through the 7 stages of grief, I kind of put my mind to it and said 'Hey if I can't go through the rules of NASA I'm going to have to make my own space program," Garriott said.

And that's what he did.  Garriott has been to all 7 continents and even down to the Titanic shipwreck.  But getting to space was the goal.  He started a company called Space Adventures that began to book seats into orbit.  In 2008 it was his turn.

2 weeks on the International Space Station.  The price tag: $30 million.

"It only takes 8 1/2 minutes to go from sitting still on the ground to burning all the fuel in the vehicle and engines cut off and you're in orbit in space.  That's obviously a pinnacle life experience as you might expect," Garriott said.  "You see a place you knew well like for me: Austin, Texas.  You go like 'Wow there's Lake Travis, there's downtown, there's my house.'"

Elon Musk's company SpaceX recently announced that 2 tourists will be hitching a ride with them and orbiting the moon in late 2018.
               
The company won't say how much the private astronauts are spending but Garriott guesses it's more than $100 million per seat. 

"I personally think this is the best thing you can imagine.  I think there is nothing at all bad about this," Garriott said.

On the other hand, he's hoping NASA won't decide to land on the moon and spend any time there. 

"What NASA does best and what we should always challenge NASA to do is go to new places first," he said.

Garriott says there are good arguments for it.  It's practice for setting up a base on Mars...when you're just 3 days away from Earth instead of 9 months.
               
But in this astronaut's opinion, not if we're hoping to get to Mars in this lifetime.

"Is the delay of stopping off at the moon worth it?  Is the gain that we would have for increased safety or proving grounds worth the delay that in my mind likely would push getting to Mars outside of our lifetimes and I'm going 'I don't see that much benefit,'" Garriott said.

Garriott says because people like himself and these 2 un-named SpaceX travelers are investing in commercial space-flight, the cost per seat for a trip to the stars will start to go way down.

"I think that we should all be very pleased and happy that we're now to the point where we can put government expeditions to Mars to go to science and commercial expeditions to Mars to bring back value or go start settlements," Garriott said.

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