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Astronaut Pioneer Owen Garriott Passes Away At 88

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NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, a spaceflight pioneer who flew on board the Skylab space station and the Space Shuttle Columbia, has passed away. He was 88.

The U.S. space agency confirmed that he died on Monday, April 15, in his home in Huntsville, Alabama. No cause of death was divulged to the public.

An American Hero

Garriott, born in Oklahoma, served as an electronics officer for the U.S. Navy from 1953 to 1956. He also taught electronics, electromagnetic theory, and ionosphere physics at Stanford University.

His career at NASA, however, began in 1965 as an astronaut-scientist. He also completed a 53-week flight training at Williams Air Force Base and logged over 5,000 hours of flying time.

He flew to space twice. He was a science pilot for the Skylab 3 mission from July 28 to Sept. 25, 1973. He logged nearly 14 hours outside Skylab in three spacewalks, during which his physiological and biomedical metrics were observed.

Garriott and his colleagues Commander Alan Bean and Pilot Jack Lousma logged a total of 1,427 hours and nine minutes in space, which is double the duration of any previous flight. They traveled some 24.5 million miles and completed 858 revolutions around Earth on board the United States' first orbital workshop.

The crew completed 333 medical experiments to help scientists understand the effects of weightlessness on the human body.

His second and final flight was on the space shuttle. He and five other people launched on board the Space Shuttle Columbia on Nov. 28, 1983, for a 10-day mission to carry the European Space Agency's STS-9 Spacelab-1 into orbit. It was the largest crew at the time to fly on board a single spacecraft.

During the mission, Garriott operated the first amateur radio station in space. He used the station call W5LFL to connect with 250 ham operators, including his mother.

His son, Richard Garriott, a video game developer and entrepreneur, became the sixth space tourist and the first American father-son space travelers. After completing training in Russia, he flew on board the Soyuz TMA-13 in 2008 and arrived at the International Space Station two days later.

World Pays Tribute

NASA Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester issued a statement to pay tribute to Garriott. He said the late astronaut "set the stage for international cooperation in human spaceflight."

In a tweet, Richard described his father as a "practical joker" beneath the Spock-like exterior.

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