CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Former astronaut Owen Garriott, who flew on America’s first space station, Skylab, and whose son followed him into orbit, has died at age 88.
He died Monday at his home in Huntsville, Alabama, according to NASA.
“Dad had a great 88 orbits around the sun!” tweeted son Richard, a computer game developer who paid the Russians $30 million for a ride to the International Space Station in 2008.
Owen Garriott served on the second Skylab crew in 1973, spending close to 60 days in space, a record at the time. He also was part of the ninth space shuttle mission, flying aboard Columbia in 1983 and operating a ham radio for the first time from orbit.
While he never flew in space again, Garriott traveled to Kazakhstan in 2008 for his son’s launch aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. They were the first U.S. father and son space travelers. The first second-generation astronaut, a Russian, launched just months before Richard Garriott and accompanied him back to Earth.
“While he was normally very “Spock like” … our adult bonding around the experience of space was a rare treasure we shared,” Richard Garriott said Tuesday via Twitter.
“In 50 years, from my father’s Apollo era to our new commercial era, much has been accomplished,” he tweeted. “Yet, none without the risks undertaken by those early pioneers!”
Owen Garriott was born in Enid, Oklahoma and served with the Navy. He was selected as an astronaut in 1965. As an associate professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University, he was one of the first six scientist-astronauts picked by NASA.
Garriott later held other positions within NASA, including director of science and applications at Johnson Space Center in Houston. He left NASA in 1986.
Condolences streamed in from fellow astronauts.
“Saddened to learn the passing of former Astronaut Owen Garriott who pioneered long-duration spaceflight aboard #Skylab,” tweeted Scott Kelly, who spent a U.S.-record one year aboard the International Space Station.
Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin described Garriott as “a good friend and an incredible astronaut.”
“Godspeed Owen,” Aldrin tweeted.