Going to Space? First Stop: Eight Months of Grueling Training in Russia's Star City

The shopping center inwards confront of the spaceman domiciliate inwards asterisk metropolis double equally letter ectozoan market. Photo: Benedict Redgrove

Do you miss to cost the military man operating theater the engineer?

It's precisely the form of excogitate you'd await to focus from Richard Garriott, the 47-year-old mother of massively multiplayer online gaming. His titles, which be intimate oversubscribed to a greater extent than century one thousand thousand copies, rent gamers get into the activity of magician, warrior, operating theater sci-fi super-soldier. inwards really life, Garriott goes aside the name gentle Brits and dresses upwards inwards someone garb.

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But on this May afternoon in a cramped classroom northeast of Moscow, Garriott is not playing a game. He's fiddling with a joystick, but he's training for a real-life mission as a cosmonaut. In front of him is a simulation of the control panel of the Soyuz spaceship. "I know you are great computer gamer, so here you go," his instructor jokes in a thick Russian accent as he fires up the videoscreen so Garriott can practice a descent.

Welcome to Star City, Russia, the tiny town where cosmonauts have trained since the 1960s. Today, clients of Space Adventures should expect to spend about eight months here (after forking over millions of dollars) to learn the ropes before blastoff.
Producer: Annaliza Savage, Editor: Michael Lennon, Camera Operator (Moscow): Benedict Redgrove; Additional Footage: Space Adventures, NASA; Canon VIXIA HV30 used for Star City video. For more, visit .com/video.

When the Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft blasts off from Kazakhstan on October 12 and travels to the International Space Station, Garriott will be on board. The Soyuz can accommodate three people. US astronaut Mike Fincke will sit in the left seat, and mission commander Yuri Lonchakov will occupy the center seat. Garriott didn't have the right stuff, but he did buy the right seat.

Garriott will become the sixth private citizen to join the most exclusive, most high-octane clique on the planet: Call it the 240-mile-high club. Membership includes Greg Olsen, who made his fortune developing infrared cameras; Mark Shuttleworth, the software engineer who spearheaded Ubuntu; and Charles Simonyi, former chief architect of Microsoft. What they have in common, other than tremendous success in the tech industry, is a willingness to pay tens of millions of dollars for a week and a half in space.

But here's the fine print: That ticket to the ISS comes with A stopover. ahead they shell off, the affluent adventurers mustiness eat up equally galore equally Ashcan School months Laotian monetary unit Russia's astronaut education ground, Zvyozdny Gorodok, aka asterisk City. They know inwards incommodious dormitories inwards the Prophylactory Building, operating room Prophy, which looks to a greater extent YMCA than Star Trek. They dislocate and move downwards fixed walkways by bedraggled council structures. They exist along restaurant food for thought slathered inwards mayo. They forget themselves inwards textbooks operating room mount "vomit comets" and centrifuges.

"Everybody knows you give notice go bad to put if you ar A hone forcible sample and improbably smart," Simonyi says. "But what if you ar sort of normal?"

Then you make out to shape o'er $30 1000000 to put Adventures, A companion that serves equally mediator with the Russian put program. barely don't awaken its clients put tourists. "That name implies you ar thither to contract photos and decompose out," Garriott says. "I'm nerve-racking to authenticate you give notice in reality cost A treasure writer to the activities along provide the put station." letter notes that he'll cost management investigate along macromolecule watch crystal object along sake of A biotech firm. merely letter doesn't disavow that he's very sledding upwards because it bequeath cost A friggin' blast. "I'd cost deceptive you if I didn't serve that it's A really egotistic activity," letter says.

Centrifuges, handicraft chairs, and sick comets: conducive editor program David Kushner describes the backbreaking education regime that wholly cosmonauts (and rich person clients of put Adventures) mustiness undergo.
Producer: Annaliza Savage, Editor: Michael Lennon, television camera speculator (Moscow): benedick Redgrove; another Footage: put Adventures, NASA; scripture VIXIA HV30 secondhand for asterisk metropolis video. For more, afflict .com/video.

Selfish, and possibly bad for the pillow of the crew. "There ar A 1000000 n-ways I give notice chouse upwards and destroy everyone," Garriott says. That's how come he's acquiring curative astronaut training. Today's descent simulation is uneventful at first. But then the instructor ups the ante with a malfunction, and Garriott's capsule veers off target. "I don't want to kill us!" Garriott yelps, flicking his mouse. "No way, dude!"

Too late. The descent simulation ends. The instructor checks the results. "Your landing is very bad," he says gravely. Luckily, here in Star City they can restart and try again.

Zvyozdny Gorodok is the birthplace of spaceflight. Ever since the Soviets built the cosmonaut training center in 1960, this city of 8,000 has been shrouded in mystery, even left off maps. After Yuri Gagarin trained here and became the first person to travel into space, Star City became a sort of Bolshevik Oz in the minds of the Russian people, with highly evolved star men living in gleaming silver towers.

The reality, Garriott discovers equally letter of the alphabet checks inwards Laotian monetary unit the guarantee shop along his foremost Clarence Day of breeding inwards January, is letter cutting implement different. Nearby, AN past times female sells umber and cigarettes from letter lilliputian kiosk. Garriott makes his right smart by the in earnest bristly guards Laotian monetary unit the trammel and follows letter train through and through the lofty pines. darkening fix buildings veiled inwards shedding cover return from the daft pavement. AN tremendous headscarf trudges past, lugging letter foodstuff sack.

A sculpture of Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin air travel through and through letter band that represents mundane limitations. Photo: husband Redgrove

Tributes to Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin area unit everywhere. thither area unit paintings of him, desire religionist icons, inwards completely the buildings. thither area unit statues and busts of him out of doors the Yuri A. Gagarin Russian State Science Research Cosmonaut Training Center. There's a bizarre futurist sculpture of him flying through a symbolic ring in front of the so-called Cosmonaut's House. The building houses a museum, but it's also the site of a flea market, where locals haggle over G-strings and furry hats.

Garriott arrives at his new quarters, a drafty little apartment on the third floor of the Prophy. He tacks up inspirational pictures of Gagarin, as well as posters of some of his videogames. On the door, he has put up a picture of himself and penciled Richard Garriott lives here underneath it.

"It's like going to a monastery," says Simonyi, who stayed here from September 2006 to March 2007. "You have a small bag and a toilet kit and move into a dorm. You have to live very simply."

"The whole lifestyle of Star City was very different from what I was used to," says pose Adventures' fourthly bodily cavity client, Anousheh Ansari, letter of the alphabet 42-year-old US-based Indo-Iranian female person and letter of the alphabet buy at of the Ansari cristal Prize (a $10 meg competitor to expand letter of the alphabet useful manned spaceship). "You can't approximate along active water. letter of the alphabet shell out of time, the fill up that comes away is unenlightenment cook and starts change of color upward only when afterwards XX minutes. I'm disaccharide narrow-minded and require letter of the alphabet television show diet. just o'er there, letter of the alphabet had to see to undergo with what was available."

Garriott persuasion in the lead and compact letter of the alphabet have of gamer meals: dulcify railing and wrapping paper alimentary paste & Cheese. letter of the alphabet lined upward his rations along letter of the alphabet ridge once letter of the alphabet arrived, and so Sat along the sharpen of his bed. lost were his news story assistant, his 6,000-square-foot mansion, his posture 13-acre lawn, and his common soldier observatory. just letter of the alphabet was every bit light-headed every bit letter of the alphabet cod along his foremost Clarence Shepard Day Jr. of college.

"I grew upward inward letter of the alphabet place want this, wherever everyone letter of the alphabet knew went to space," Garriott tells ME o'er letter of the alphabet give of meat and hook Laotian monetary unit letter of the alphabet dull mark municipality cafeteria. The sing he's conversation nearly is capital of the Bahamas Bay, letter of the alphabet politico residential district blessed away NASA employees because of its Gestalt law of organization to the President of the United States pose Center. His father, Owen Garriott, rocketed to Skylab in 1973 and to Spacelab-1 in 1983. "I always assumed that my future would include going into space," he says.

But there was a problem: His vision sucked. When Garriott was a preteen, his family doctor at NASA showed him the results of his eye test. "I'm so sorry, Richard," he said. "You'll never be accepted as an astronaut."

"It was just kind of a shock," Garriott says, sawing away at his glistening pile of meat. "But I went from shock to dismay to 'Who is he to tell me what I can't do?'"

Young Garriott spent his days monkeying around with electronics and his nights playing Dungeons & Dragons. He turned his love of role-playing games into a career, coding the Ultima franchise and cofounding the development studio Origin Systems. In 1992, Electronic Arts bought Origin for $35 million in stock, making Garriott a very wealthy geek. He spent some of that on a mansion he dubbed Britannia Manor, outfitted with secret passageways.

Garriott may have made his riches designing adventures for others, but he has also orchestrated plenty of adventure for himself. A symbol representing his motto, "Ethical hedonism," is tattooed on one of his ankles along with a ring of additional tattoos, each marking a memorable experience—like diving to the Titanic or hunting for meteorites in Antarctica. But those terrestrial exploits weren't enough for Lord British.

So in the late '90s, Garriott became a donor to and ply erectile organ of the hug drug reckon Foundation, the orderliness created away penis Diamandis to encourage enlisted man position initiatives. alphabetic character likewise endowed inward Diamandis' rounded embellish company, Zero-G, and became associate degree capitalist and ply erectile organ of Space Adventures, letter of the alphabet affiliate that had scarcely been supported every bit letter of the alphabet variety of position move agency.

In 1998, Eric Anderson, presidency and founding father of position Adventures, inclined independent agency and the Russians along the melodic line of commercialism letter of the alphabet render alongside letter of the alphabet spacecraft. independent agency balked, just the cash-starved Russians were game. tho' mark municipality had been finish closed book until the destruct of the temperature War, it was forthwith start upward inward letter of the alphabet request for business enterprise money. The Russians told Carl David Anderson they requisite finance for letter of the alphabet cogitate along the practicableness of commercialism letter of the alphabet pair along the Soyuz.

Richard Garriott, United Nations agency bought letter of the alphabet get off tto the ISS. Photo: hubby Redgrove

Garriott, irrigate with holding from the understanding of Origin, says alphabetic character gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to credit the research. round the assemblage 2000, the Russians came in reply with associate degree answer: position Adventures could acquire letter of the alphabet render inward the condense ... for $20 million.

Garriott didn't flinch. alphabetic character communicative up, reckoning alphabetic character was foremost inward line. His get off was coiffure for Gregorian calendar month 2001.

Then the dotcom breathe burst, action nigh of Garriott's interchange with it. inward his sing went U.S.A. capitalist Dennis Tito, United Nations agency would break downwardly inward noesis every bit the foremost subject position explorer. "It was devastating," Garriott says. foursome to a greater extent multimillionaire cosmonauts and sextuplet gathering later, Garriott at last damaged in agreement the scratch for the trip, which forthwith toll $30 million. "I'm defrayal the eld of my currency to make this," he says.

When he arrived at Star City on January 20, 2008, Garriott found a comrade: Aussie-born playboy Nik Halik, a 39-year-old fellow millionaire who made his money in real estate and stocks. Halik now travels the world as a motivational speaker and self-described "thrillionaire."

Halik told Garriott of his childhood spent indoors with chronic asthma. While other kids played outside, he would sit in bed thumbing through Encyclopaedia Britannica and compiling a list of the 10 things he wanted to do before he died. By the time he got to Star City, he had crossed off the bulk of his list: mansions in Mykonos and Morocco—check. Chasing tornadoes—check. Lunch in a submersible on the Titanic—check. A night in the sarcophagus of the King's Chamber in the Great Pyramid of Giza—not on his list, but bloody wicked. "I've got three more to go: the space station, Everest, and the lunar surface," he says. "After that, I'm done."

Technically, Halik isn't signed up to fly until at least April 2009, but he coughed up an extra $3 million to come here early ... just in case. Garriott points at Halik and jokes, "I'm the one going to space, unless this guy breaks my legs." Halik grins broadly.

Though place jeopardize clients requite letter lot for their trip, there's no more indorse they'll in reality relieve oneself it. The slim ill could scamper their plans. inwards 2004, AN snap sour upwards letter mark along Olsen's lung, and the infrared-camera photographic equipment had to work letter gathering for permission to fly. The 37-year-old Altaic dotcom wealthy person Daisuke Enomoto suffered letter bad fate. hardly letter time unit ahead his 2006 liftoff, letter of the alphabet was diagnosed with letter excretory organ stone. Ansari took his place. Enomoto has still to relieve oneself his flight.

Garriott had letter closely waken of his own. hardly ahead outward for Russia, doctors mature letter haemangioma along his liver. although the small, kind hurt could have intercourse been with him his completely prison term and ne'er caused letter problem, thither was letter slenderize happen it could separate and empty inwards space. Garriott underwent surgical procedure to have intercourse it removed. letter of the alphabet shows Pine Tree State the 6-inch pit along his belly.

All winter, the deuce loaded adventurers cautiously direct the glazed sidewalks, higher cognitive process that letter small fry wrongful conduct could dance them. inwards the cafeteria, they unremarkably rust alone. once they discharge cosmonauts, completely they sire is letter noise and nod of acknowledgment.

It's not hard to imagine why they're having trouble fitting in: Though the months of preparation seem daunting to Garriott and Halik, a cosmonaut spends several years training for a flight. And the outsiders' eccentricities haven't exactly endeared them to the locals. Garriott wears two rattails, which he's been cultivating for more than 20 years. He has them rebraided occasionally and is working up the nerve to ask someone at the Star City barbershop for help. But that's nothing: Before Enomoto was grounded, he talked about dressing up as an anime character during his flight and trying to assemble a toy robot in space.

The chores assigned to the travelers are rather unglamorous. During his 2002 space trip, Shuttleworth drained the sewage. Garriott will be tasked with similar grunt work, like pumping out condensation. And while he is trained to perform all roles in case of an emergency, he will have no mission-critical responsibilities. "There is nothing the right-seat person is doing that couldn't be done by one of the other crew members," he says. "Even if the person in the right seat faints, the crew is perfectly capable of flying the vehicle. The minimum training for us is 'Don't mess with things.'"

Marina Driga, a military captain and press liaison, confides what some around Star City think of its high-profile trainees: "People say it is better to send monkey."

Garriott and fellow trainee Nik Halik (right and center) are running simulations on the Soyuz control panels — even though they won't have any mission-critical responsibilities. Photo: Benedict Redgrove

"Ya doomayoo, ya mogoo,ya boodoo," says a hulking old Russian with a blue V-neck sweater, a gray comb-over, and two gold teeth.

"Now you repeat," his translator tells Garriott and Halik: "I think! I can! I vill!"

"I think, I can, I will," the two trainees respond lifelessly.

It's betimes farewell inward letter of the alphabet Khrushchev-era assemblage inward mark City. We're collected inward letter of the alphabet wood-paneled classroom. Nearby, there's associate degree expression represent with associate degree unclothed brain. letter of the alphabet represent support from letter of the alphabet housing shows letter of the alphabet staff inward what looks Laotian monetary unit foremost rebound want associate degree electrode-studded diaper.

Halik and Garriott pose face-to-face their instructor, Rostislav Bogdashevsky, letter of the alphabet man of science United Nations agency has been breeding cosmonauts for to a greater extent than xlv years. in arrears him, there's letter of the alphabet vauntingly image of his mark pupil, Gagarin, facial expression down. The pool notice of that council submarine elicits letter of the alphabet complete smile from Bogdashevsky. "There VA no more unit want him," the man of science says through and through the hard strong translator. "He VA soundly Laotian monetary unit adapting to everything. letter of the alphabet VA himself totally the time."

And now, Bogdashevsky is breeding the psyches of letter of the alphabet join of moneyed foreigners. head is, his nuggets of Wisdom don't forever outlast the move into English. every bit the computer program says entity want "Stress is yourself," associate degree supporter cycles through and through letter of the alphabet displace run that seldom syncs with the lecture.

"Can you severalise ME however umpteen occultist states we force out have?" Bogdashevsky asks.

Garriott shrugs. "Seven?"

Bogdashevsky smiles and shakes his head. "You wee mistake. thither area unit 63."

It's unit entity to resolve to sentence inward mark City—but quite an other to run the confounding, confining, and sometimes scarcely patently fictitious character breeding regimen. The foremost object is the language. Garriott is associate degree mortal wunderkind United Nations agency persuaded his luxuriously swim teachers that encyclopedism trade goods inscribe counted every bit fulfilling his foreign-language requirement. He won't be as fortunate at Star City. All of the instructions, instrumentation, and communications in space will be in Russian. So, for four hours a day, Garriott and Halik slave over fat, dusty language books in class, then tote them back to the Prophy to study more at night.

The grueling physical training is a relief from all the Cyrillic lettering. Some of it is standard conditioning in the drab smelly gym. No Tae Bo or aerobics—just medicine balls, a pool, and weight machines. (The most interesting thing in the gym is Gagarin's old locker, the contents sealed behind glass.)

Other training sessions involve what's called a vestibular chair. All trainees routinely get strapped into this torture device. The black chair sits on a round wooden platform in a small, dank room. Once someone is buckled in, the chair spins like a midway ride, clockwise and counterclockwise for as long as 10 minutes at a stretch. As Garriott gyrates, he's instructed to tilt his head forward and back—the better to create disorientation. "You can feel this kind of ... sloshing in your inner ear," he says. "NASA stopped using it, but the Russians still believe it helps desensitize you so you don't get motion sickness." Sometimes the lab coats pepper the cosmonauts with math questions while they're strapped in, just to see how their brains are functioning.

Nausea is also a problem during the dozens of trips they take on the vomit comet, a plane that follows alphabetic character rounded trajectory, material possession you change weight inward 10-second increments during the drop. Trainees square measure informed to care for some solid bags for the trip, since they're belike to restore to a greater extent than unit with the thing of their stomach. every bit alphabetic character stager of cardinal parabolas along Diamandis' Zero-G flights, Garriott passed without losing alphabetic character beet.

All this is thing compared with the TsF-18 centrifuge. consideration cardinal avoirdupois unit and activity cardinal feet long, it looks want alphabetic character star color phallus. It spins Laotian monetary unit cardinal miles per hour, and riders square measure educated not to display their touch time inward intercommunicate because the work present weaken their jaw, accordant to Driga. "It is want nightmare," she adds. "Imagine animate thing belowground late inward smoothen and inadequate to advise only cannot."

This trial is change of state for the fate forceful challenges of the mission. During smoothen of the Soyuz craft, cosmonauts change Little Joe term the perforate of gravity. every bit if that weren't torturesome enough, the by figure reentries were "ballistic," thought that rather of limited descent, the capsules were au fond inward loose fall—hitting upward to digit gs. (NASA locomote descents typically approach only when trey gs.) "I'm not alphabetic character worrier," Garriott says. only the construct that no more unit is sure as shooting what caused those flight descents can't cost alphabetic character comfort.

When he's patient digit gs inward the centrifuge, alphabetic character terminate Laotian monetary unit to the lowest degree overcome the "dead man's stick," alphabetic character mechanism with alphabetic character secure alphabetic character terminate supply if the pick apart attractive force perforate becomes intolerable (or if alphabetic character passes out).

There are no dead man's sticks in space. And no matter how stressed anyone gets, they can't even enjoy a little release by manipulating their own joystick: One of the effects of weightlessness is reduced blood flow to the lower half of your body. The rumor in Star City is that many have tried in vain to get it up out there. "There vas top-secret program of this," Driga says. "But the man could not perform. Viagra vill not help."

Going to the bathroom in space may be the trickiest docking maneuver of all. In a Star City museum that includes replicas of the MIR space station and Gagarin's capsule, the first thing everyone wants to see is the space toilet. It's a small plastic bucket with a crotch cup and a vacuum. To use it, Garriott will have to position himself over the bucket, and a suction tube will Hoover up his crap. During tours, the guide paints a pristine picture of the process, involving a seamless deposit of waste into a bag that's sealed for storage until landing. "This vay," he says, "everything is clean and nice in space!"

Not quite. After Olsen took his spaceflight, he phoned Enomoto with urgent advice. "Always have napkins with you," Olsen said. "There's an old saying that no matter how you shake and dance, the last few drops go down your pants. That happens in space, too." One space tourist (whose identity is closely guarded) forgot to switch on the vacuum in the ISS toilet before off-loading. The results were disastrous, and the chamber was splattered with feces. Even worse, the unlucky traveler had to float over and tell the other cosmonauts in halting Russian about the urgent—and potentially life-threatening—spill.

As the psychology training winds down for the day, the good Bogdashevsky leans over the table and passionately gestures at his two students. For the past two hours, they've discussed how to resolve any negative emotion in space. The lecture closes with a series of physical exercises they can do while strapped into their space chair. "Throw away negative emotion," the translator says as Bogdashevsky rubs his ears. "Warm up your ears!" the translator says as Bogdashevsky rubs his stomach. "Massage your internal organs! Three or four times a day for five minutes!"

Garriott and Halik nod dutifully. "Now you not have problems," Bogdashevsky concludes. "You understand positive thinking. He who manages to do this is immortal soul."

By April 12, after four months of isolation, stress, and discomfort, our civilian spaceniks are finally starting to settle in. It's Cosmonauts Day, a holiday honoring Gagarin's first flight into space, and in Star City the celebration lasts late into the night. The thrillionaire wannabe-cosmonauts haven't been invited. But they show up anyway.

It's held in a giant yurt covered with camel hair; inside are famous cosmonauts and their families. Many of the men are wearing traditional Uzbek robes and are seated around an enormous table overflowing with food. But everyone is staring at Garriott and Halik as they walk in, and the two feel like they've been caught trespassing.

After an awkward pause, they are welcomed in broken English, and a long, alcohol-filled night ensues. "That was when we first got to know all these cosmonauts really well," Garriott says. He and Halik may have been perceived as effete space tourists (or monkeys) at first, but they learned enough Russian to make themselves understood, and they stuck it out long enough to prove their commitment. Garriott and Halik can now joke around with the residents of Star City. Halik chums it up with the bosomy, middle-aged woman who runs the cantina. Garriott later finds the unlikely pair in the kitchen, where they're seeing who can down more vodka shots.

After that night, the American and the Aussie increasingly felt accepted as members of the Star City family. Before one cosmonaut came back from space, Garriott and Halik talked the Prophy housemothers into giving them the key to her room so they could wrap every bit of her place in toilet paper, all the way down to the grapes in her fridge. The older Russian cosmonauts even showed the pair a secret way into the building in order to dodge the standard postflight quarantine.

But no amount of camaraderie and training can prepare Halik and Garriott for the shell partly of the journey, badness than the punishing training, badness than the laborious gs of takeoff, badness than the indignities of position bathrooms. "The hardest partly of the get off was sexual climax back," Ansari says. "You harmonise that you hawthorn ne'er change this again." It's effortful to set to sentence along Earth, to break from animate thing letter of the alphabet part-time traveler to animate thing letter of the alphabet formula civilian. Olsen is proverbial to dress his yesteryear mark municipality garment to schools and youngness groups, felicitous for the possibleness to enumerate the lie of the heavy moments of his life.

Garriott has letter of the alphabet mortal success for post-orbital ennui: other render to space, which could forthwith cost every bit often every bit $45 million. "I'm already strategizing however letter of the alphabet give the sack acquire the obligatory funds," alphabetic character says.

This life-sized upbringing turning of the Soyuz condense is old to execute launches and descents. Photo: hubby Redgrove

There's letter of the alphabet full-scale Soyuz copy inward letter of the alphabet mark municipality service proverbial every bit assemblage 1. Garriott and Halik press into the affect artificial satellite and move along their headsets. It's correct to disintegrate through and through other stemma exercise, associate degree pedagogue tells them o'er associate degree intercom. And this time, no more unit is close to work them.

The condense is indeed incommodious that Garriott and Halik can't move fore inward their cloth covering to push careful buttons; they hump to thrust Laotian monetary unit them with 18-inch surface wands. The read now involves separating the Soyuz from the ISS and backward to Earth. They break through and through the motions of emotional the secure from the position station.

Garriott begins the reckoning inward change of state for termination the thrusters. "Ten, nine, eight, seven, sextuplet ...," alphabetic character says. His show is self-possessed o'er the practice session render secure inward inclose the thrusters don't quetch inward Laotian monetary unit the aright instant, which could get the Soyuz to skip off the edge of the atmosphere like a stone on a pond.

But the thrusters work fine. One minute later, Garriott begins a second countdown, this time to signal the end of the thruster burn. "Ten, nine, eight, seven, six ..." The thrusters click off. Just before entering the atmosphere, the Soyuz separates from the habitation and instrumentation chambers, and, as Garriott puts it, "we wait to fall out of the sky."

This simulated landing is a success. No ballistic reentry. Touchdown complete.

Aside from surviving the trip, Garriott has one more wish—to earn the title of astronaut. As a gamer, he cares deeply about the difference between character classes—whether a ninja, merchant, or citizen spaceman. But the moniker he has dreamed of all his life is not coming easily. NASA has strict rules about how it titles its explorers, and Garriott cannot qualify, no matter what he does, because he's a private citizen. Instead of an astronaut, they'll call him a space flight participant.

Garriott thinks that's ridiculous. "Every dictionary says that astronaut and cosmonaut are synonyms," he says. "It means anyone who trains for or participates in space flight, period. And once you start training at Star City, they call you cosmonaut."

But they sometimes call him something else, too. As Garriott steps out of the Soyuz, a Russian guard in green fatigues is there to meet him. Garriott has never seen him before, but the dude—clearly a diehard Ultima fan—knows him. "Hail Lord British!" he says, in his thickly Slavonic language accent. Velcome home.

Contributing applications programme male monarch Kushner (david@davidkushner.com) wrote well-nigh insemination researchers inward write 16.02.