MOSCOW (Reuters) - The sons of a Russian cosmonaut and a U.S. astronaut met in space Tuesday when spaceman Sergei Volkov welcomed American Richard Garriott on board the International Space Station.
Garriott, a computer game developer who paid $35 million (20 million pounds) for his trip to space, arrived with two crewmates on board a Soyuz capsule, which docked with the space station two days after blasting off from a launch-pad in Kazakhstan.
After the hatches were opened between the capsule and the station at 10:55 a.m. British time, Volkov — whose cosmonaut father was orbiting the earth when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 — welcomed Garriott with a hug.
U.S. space agency NASA said they are first children of previous space adventurers to meet in orbit.
Russian television showed Garriott smiling after taking congratulations from friends and family, including his astronaut father Owen, who joked with Alexander Volkov at mission control in Moscow.
Space tourist Garriott, U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke and Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on the Kazakh steppe Sunday.
Fincke will serve as commander of the six-month Expedition 18 mission which will focus on preparing the station to house six crew members on longer-duration missions.
Russian space officials brushed aside reports of problems with a toilet at the station, saying all problems had now been resolved and that there were several reserve systems.
After 10 days in space Garriott will return to Earth with the ISS’s outgoing crew aboard a Soyuz re-entry vehicle, a three-person capsule which has malfunctioned on its last two flights.
In April, a Soyuz capsule landed 420 km (260 miles) off course after explosive bolts failed to detonate before re-entry, sending the craft into a steep descent.
Last year, a Soyuz capsule carrying Malaysia’s first astronaut also made a so-called “ballistic” landing, similarly blamed on faulty bolts.
Russian space officials said they had done everything possible to avoid a so-called ballistic entry when Garriott returns to earth.
“We can say with confidence that we have done everything that could possibly be done,” Vitaly Davydov, deputy head of Russian Space Agency ROSKOSMOS, was quoted as saying by Itar-Tass news agency.
Born in Cambridge, England, and raised in Texas, Garriott says he dreamed about flying to space since childhood. He made his fortune by creating fantasy computer games such as Ultima.
Additional reporting by Tatiana Ustinova