High above the Earth...

Early this morning, while those of us in the Americas were still asleep, a Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Baikonour space center. In a small capsule atop the rocket sat three fortunate human beings: Michael Fincke, Yuri Lonchakov, and Richard Garriott.

All three travelers are headed for the International Space Station, but for slightly different reasons. Fincke and Lonchakov are government astronauts headed to join the crew of Expedition 18. Garriott, on the other hand, is a personal spaceflight participant--the sixth person to reach orbit by buying a ride through Space Adventures. He's also the son of an astronaut, making him a second-generation space explorer.

And, among those six Space Adventures customers to make it to orbit, he's also second member of the X PRIZE Foundation's Board of Trustees. Richard has been a longtime supporter of the X PRIZE Foundation, and we are extremely grateful to him for his support, and very happy (and jealous) of him for his current trip.

As described by Google Lunar X PRIZE team FREDNET Richard will be conducting a mission of science and outreach during his stay on the station. I'm sure we'll be posting more about his flight in this space in the coming days.

Congratulations to Richard, to the Expedition 18 crew, and to Space Adventures. It is wonderful to see another example of the success possible in this new era of spaceflight.

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