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FDL Movie Night: Man on a Mission

At some point everyone of a certain age must have dreamed of being an astronaut, of flying into space, boldly going where man had gone before. I grew up with a dad who was a human factor specialist for NASA, basically an on-earth test astronaut. Richard Garriott–one of our guests tonight and the subject of Man on a Mission–is the son of an astronaut, Owen Garriott who rode aboard Skylab 2; he wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps. Fate, and bad eyesight, prevented him from becoming an official astronaut so he set off to make his dreams come true (and along the way, he became the father of a whole generation of computer gamers.)

Man on a Mission chronicles Garriott’s journey to the International Space Station in October 2008, a trip costing $30 million he paid for with his own money.

As a senior in high school, Richard Garriot developed and sold a computer role-playing game that laid the groundwork for today’s Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. He followed up with more games, investing in space travel and other ventures, made a huge fortune, and bought the first ticket as a space tourist. Then the dot-com bubble burst in 2001, and Garriott sold his seat to Dennis Tito. He would have to wait seven years before he could go into space as a cosmonaut.

Man on a Mission, directed by Mike Woolf, follows Garriott through his training and into the International Space Station where he must cope with, among other things, the

subtle complexities of using a bathroom in space

which I hope he’ll consent to explain to us tonight. Garriott’s year of training to become a cosmonaut included safety drills and learning to speak Russian, which are documented in Man on a Mission.

Garriott says that he wanted to have a valued experience during his twelve days on the Soyuz, so he learned to conduct experiments on crystalization of proteins–plus he staged an art show, made ham radio calls like his father before him, and created an 8-minute long movie called “Apogee of Fear,” which NASA seemed disinclined to have screened.

Now a second-generation space traveler, Garriott feels space travel is a transformative experience beyond his expectations. The film gives us stunning shots of space, an inside look at cosmonaut training, and for the first time ever, a camera is rolling in the capsule during the return to Earth, as well as being a study of a man who made his dreams come true.

Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.