Monday, April 20, 2009

Aloft with a Superstar Astronaut

I had cleared security at Moscow's Sheremetevo-2 International Airport week before last and was waiting to board Delta to Atlanta. Across the room was a young man I recognized. I had seen him up close and in person but he didn't seem to recognize me earlier when we'd nearly bumped into each other.

Across the waiting area, I kept staring. He was busy poking away on something digital and I was wracking my brain trying to place him and chatting with a young lady from Houston. She said, I'm seeing NASA labels on several people's bags. We must have people here with the space program. Suddenly things clicked and I bolted in his direction.

Excuse me, but aren't you the guy who paid his own way into space last year?

I certainly am,
he smiled. Hello, I'm Richard Garriott.

I took your photograph. Now I know where I've seen you. You've been in my living room on my television. (Pictured above with his translator. Click image to enlarge.)

I had seen him and fellow astronauts during a press conference in Moscow last October. That crew with two Americans was particularly interesting and I took lots of photos. I remember being impressed with Richard's thoughtfulness and eloquence when he answered questions about his motivation for going into space.

Now, wasn't your dad an astronaut too?

Richard pulled out a postcard with a photo of the two of them.

Here, you can have this, he said.

Well I remember Googling your name, I babbled, and didn't you pay for this trip all yourself?

Yes, I paid for it by writing computer games.

He pulled out another prize. Here, you can have this too. And he kindly proceeded to explain the meaning of each item on the patch. Fellow astronauts are listed around the edges.

Well, what do you know, I have a photo of Michael Fincke, too, the shuttle flight engineer who hails from Pennsylvania.

Mr Fincke was impressive because he spoke good Russian.

By now it was time to board and I ran back to get my carry-on. Li Ming, the young lady from Houston who was watching my things devised a plan for getting a photograph. She would follow me through first class with her camera and we would try for a shot as we headed back toward steerage. ;)

Richard graciously agreed to a photograph and . . . here you have it. He had come through Moscow and then gone to the launch site in Kazakhstan to meet astronauts from Soyz 14 who had just returned from work on the space station. What a genuinely nice fellow.

How about you, fellow blog reader. Have you ever run into a celebrity on a flight? Gotten a photograph? Or have you ever dreamed of being a space tourist?


KLo said...

I spent several trips on an elevator with some Hall of Fame baseball players (we were staying in the same hotel), and I swear I saw my favorite author in the hotel lobby during my honeymoon.

This was a neat post to read. It reminded me of what a small world it is : )

Jeanette said...

Great story! You truly have the heart and the gift of journalism

~~anna~~ said...

I'm impressed! We did meet 5 members of the US Embassy Marine Security Division last week on the way back from picking up our mail. The Division Commander gave us a special medallion.

So you're in the States now? Enjoy your time...

9uy said...

I'm happy I found your blog via blog expat. Great reading!

Debbi said...

I met the guy who drove the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile for 20 years. Your story is much more impressive!!

SOwnbey said...

I'm late posting this; just read your story from April 2009. I was once in California attending a professional conference and noticed a face in the gate area that looked familiar. Upon boarding, my seat was next to his. He was a well-known journalist for many years on CBS. He now does stories for the History Channel. Interesting fellow to visit with. Not pretentious at all. No photo was taken, unfortunately.