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Travel Bug with 350 Million Miles to Return to Earth

Space Shuttle Discovery (source: NASA)

ORIGINALLY POSTED 10/28/2010
UPDATE 2/24/2011

The Space Shuttle Discovery and its crew launched into  orbit on February 24th, 2011.  The mission was originally scheduled for late 2010. According to NASA, the official mission rockets the shuttle toward the International Space Station (ISS) to deliver a module and critical spare parts. The mission will also make geocaching history, again.

NASA Astronaut and geocacher Michael Barratt (source: NASA)

Astronaut Michael Reed Barratt is the flight-surgeon on the mission.  Barratt is also a geocacher.

According to geocacher, cosmonaut and video game developer Richard Garriott (Lord British), Barratt will spend part of his free-time in the extreme environment of the International Space Station going geocaching.

Garriott tells Geocaching.com, “The mission takes the NASA orbiter to the International Space Station and the highest geocache in existence. In the two years that bug has waited on-board the ISS, it has sure made some distance!”

Garriott contributed $30 million to the Russian Space program for a seat aboard a Soyuz rocket bound for the space station. While on the space station he hid the geocache  “International Space Station” (GC1BE91) and placed a Travel Bug inside it.

Richard Garriott

The ISS and the Travel Bug placed onboard travel at 17,500 miles an hour. So far the Trackable has moved more than 350 million miles since Garriott placed it in October of 2008.

Garriott met Barratt during preparation for his trip to the ISS. According to Garriott, “I know Mike from my training time in Star City [Russia] as he was training there too. In fact, he was one of the very first Astronauts /Cosmonauts I met in Russia.”

Garriott says Barratt already had one chance to grab the Travel Bug but missed it: “He has already flown once between the time I left the bug and this flight. He even saw the bug, but he was not a geocacher at the time, and so my hidden in plain sight worked!”

Travel Bug aboard the ISS

Barratt has a rare second chance to grab the Travel Bug.  And Garriott says that Barratt is going to take it: “Now that he is a geocacher, he recognized the item immediately! I have spoken with him about his upcoming flight and intentions to recover the well traveled bug.”

Garriott hopes the Travel Bug takes a final trip to his doorstep, “I do indeed hope that the bug finds its way back to me, that would be a real thrill.” Although he hopes that it experiences some more extreme conditions first: “I think Mike may have it visit the NASA undersea lab before it finishes its exotic journey to the heights and depths humanity can take it.”

Watch the Lost & Found video below showcasing Garriott placing the ISS geocache.  The video also details Garriott hiding the lowest geocache in the world.  He placed the geocache “Rainbow Hydrothermal Vents” (GCG822) in 2002. It sits 2300 meters below the surface of the ocean.