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Posted : 2007-09-17 17:59
Updated : 2007-09-17 17:59

NCSoft to Send American Employee to Space


Richard Garriott
By Cho Jin-seo
Staff Reporter

NCsoft, South Korea's largest game company by revenue, said its American game director Richard Garriott may fly to the Internatioanl Space Station in the fall of 2008, only a few months after Ko San takes the exactly same flight to become the nation's first astronaut.

The company said on Tuesday that the final decision will be made in a month. If settled, Garriott will fly on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for a one-week stay at the ISS.

The trip to the space station is commissioned by Space Adventures, a U.S. space trip brokerage firm. The company recently said it has reserved two seats on the Soyuz craft for the fall of 2008 and the spring of 2009, for one American and one Asian, respectively.

The trip is the equivalent to that of Ko San, who is now being trained for the trip at Russia's space center at the expense of the South Korean government. The price for the trip was around $25 million for Ko but has risen to $30 million since then due to the change in exchange rates.

NCSoft said on Monday that Garriott was confirmed to go and NCsoft is considering using the trip as a promotion for its new Sci-Fi computer game that will be released next month. Furthermore, Kim Taek-jin, CEO and founder of NCSoft, may attempt the same course in 2009 to be the second Korean spaceman after Ko, a spokesman said.

Spokesman Kim Ju-young said: ``Garriott decided to do it. We have an idea of sponsoring the trip, though it is not confirmed. It could be part of our social contribution program. Or it could be related to the promotion of `Tabula Rasa.'''

``As for CEO Kim, nothing has been decided yet,'' he had said.

However on Tuesday, Kim said that the plans are not defenite yet and he was confused the previous day.

He corrected that the official confirmation of the sponsored space trip from NCsoft is expected to come in October, when the firm releases ``Tabula Rasa.'' The company has spent hundreds of billions of won on the much-hyped project over six years and is desperate to make it a blockbuster.

The orbital tour program at the ISS became public when Space Adventures sent American businessman Dennis Tito to the ISS in 2001, making him the first space tourist in history. Last year, Anousheh Ansari joined the program to become the first female space tourist.

Garriott, the chief developer of the project, is considered ideal for the promotional trip as he is a celebrity among computer gamers in the United States and in Europe.

NCsoft is the largest game firm in Korea. But it has seen a continuous decline in its operating profit over the past two years as its mega-hit game ``Lineage'' and its sequel began to lose their charm among Korean gamers.

Kim and Garriott have had a taste of space travel earlier this month. They took a zero gravity flight out of an airport in Texas, operated by the same company Space Adventures.

Garriott is also the son of NASA astronaut Owen Garriott and has been deeply involved in the operation of Space Adventures while working as the chief of game development at NCSoft Austin.

indizio@koreatimes.co.kr

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