Interview: Space Station Geocache

Geocaching was litterally taken to new hights in 2008 when cacher Richard Garriott went into space. He placed the first and so far only cache outside the boundries of earth, and the cache International Space Station now orbits our planet at 340-400 kilometers (up to 250 miles) on the space station with the same name, the ISS.

Richard himself is the co-founder of a company called Space Adventures, which has arranged for seven private citizens to travel to the ISS, himself included. He launched aboard the Russian rocket Soyuz TMA 13 on October 12, 2008.

The ISS itself is owned by the US, Russia, Canada, Japan and the EU. An international cooperation that serves as a symbol that the space race between the countries is over. We had a chat with Richard about this historical milestone of a cache.

Awesome Geocaching: A cache in space? How on earth did you even come up with the idea?

Richard Garriott: I was a geocaching fan long before I arranged my trip to the International Space Station. I had already placed a cache and travel bug deep below the sea at a hydrothermal vent, so it was natural to push as far as possible.

AG: The number of people who can log this cache is obviously extremely limited. Since 2008, only one person has logged it. Who was that?

LB: You would be surprised how many astronauts are geocachers. When I first placed the cache and travel bug on the ISS, I was not sure anyone would see it, nor that I would recover the travel bug. But in fact, many of my astronaut friends saw it, even if they did not log it or recover it. The Travel Bug was only brought back to earth by some of my original crew mates, who returned to the ISS a couple years after I left it there.

AG: Do you see any more logs coming in the near future? With space tourism on the rise, what are the prospects of the cache?

RG: Private and government visitors to the ISS will continue. I suspect we will see many more cachers in space and on other planets soon!

AG: Do you think there will be more caches placed in space in the future?

RG: Absolutely! I hope to place a few more myself!

AG: I want to log it! How much would it cost me and who do I turn to?

Space Adventures is the only company in the world that can provide trips to the space station, and now around the moon. A space station trip costs approximately $50M.

AG: How did geocaching.com respond to this whole idea? How is it even possible with the coordinates?

RG: There was some discussion about coordinates. Just as the moon orbits the earth, so the ISS orbits the earth. It is not a “ship” or other non-inertial moving mass, so it was allowed.

AG: Can you clarify that a bit? On the map, the cache is located somewhere in Asia. But how is it even possible to “map” the location and have specific coordinates when the cache is up in space?

RG: The co-ordinates are listed as the launch site in Baikanur, Kazakstan. This is where you must go, to get to the cache.

AG: You mentioned that you’ve also placed a cache in the deep. I even believe that it’s the worlds deepest cache. Which cache is that and where is it?

RG: It is at the Rainbow Hydrothermal Vents, off the coast of Portugal. While it is rarely visited, anyone can visit it… but it does require a submarine that can reach great depths. But this is done almost every year by researchers and tourists.

AG: You’re somewhat of an extreme geocacher, aren’t you? Any special stories you’d like to share?

RG: I’m also a big interactive experience developer, working with computer games and haunted houses. So I have created The Necropolis of Britannia Manor near our home in Austin, Texas. It is a giant interactive puzzle, with a nice spooky payoff at the end. Please check it out!

AG: Any final comments?

RG: Geocaching is an amazing activity! I’m an active global traveler and explorer, yet it is rare to find a place on earth – or now even in space – that is not filled with caches. Amazing what we can do together! Lets explore!

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Thank you Richard Garriott for taking the time to talk to us.

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