Travel Bug with 350 Million Miles to Return to Earth

Space Shuttle Discovery (source: NASA)

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.

  • Tellingitlikeitis

    Meh. Seems as if it violates may of the geocaching rules include the first two: no coordinates and no logbook. The cool factor is pretty high (pun intended)

  • moretellingitlikeitis

    oh ya, it should only get mileage credit for the distance between caches, not it’s space travel. Or be prepared to add mileage to all trackables for it’s trip around the sun, and the sun around the galactic core, etc. Oh wait, there is no datum in space…

  • Simon

    So the cache is moving, isn’t it breaking the rules then? 😀

    Anyway, this will be the most awesome FTF I can imagine. Good luck!

  • Aksers

    Groundspeak made an exception. That’s what it will be. It’s amazing that it travelled that far. I sure hope that he takes another travel bug to put in it’s place, so that another lucky astocacher will be able to see it as well =D

  • Chris Race

    Even if he’s going to find the cache (what cache btw, there isn’t a real one!) and the TB, he won’t be able to log it, because the listing is locked. Wuahahaaaaa …..

  • Johan

    I like the stoy, great. But this has nothing to do with geocaching! I hope that this bug will be disqualified for longest travel. Seems to me that the owner has placed it there, so the bug hasn’t moved at all. Besides that, also the earth travels throug space and that does not count as milage.

  • Pete Fowler aka Zee_prime

    Silly question; to log the ocean vent cache, do you have to go down there in a submersible?

  • 1. How does this have nothing to do with geocaching? It is a Travel Bug (geocaching) attached to a locker that supposedly has a logbook for geocachers to sign (geocaching), placed by a geocacher (geocaching). Would you still say it has nothing to do with geocaching if you had been the one lucky enough to afford the trip and put this in place?
    2. I recall reading somewhere that there is at least a logsheet inside the locker the Travel Bug is attached to, so that rule isn’t violated if true. My guess is that Jeremy Irish, or someone else at Groundspeak, will work with Michael Barrett to somehow unlock the listing long enough for him to log the find. I just hope he takes a photo of his signature for all the people complaining (did he bring a spare in case it got muggled?).
    3. I doubt that anyone is going to update the mileage on this Travel Bug to accurately reflect the distance it has traveled around the Earth. It shouldn’t be changed anyway as this is an exception to the normal travel of trackables. But it’s quite obvious in two years that this has traveled more than any other item. No, it has no mileage yet, but it will when it gets placed back on Earth. The 311 million miles is a rough estimate on how much it has traveled RELATIVE TO EARTH. Who’s going to let the technicalities of “earth is moving through space too” take away the fact that this item traveled to space, around the Earth multiple times over two years, then back?
    4. While the ISS is moving, are we really going to make a big deal about that? If you had the opportunity to go after this cache, would you really stop yourself because “it’s moving so it violates a guideline”? This leads to #5
    5. This cache was made an exception by Jeremy Irish. If the head of the company can choose to make an exception because of the cool factor this cache creates, he has the right to do so. The uproar of people complaining about this resulted in the guidelines being updated to allow for this placement. End of story.

    Personally, I wondered when an astronaut would finally claim it. I had the opportunity to at least get the TB brought back down by an astronaut I have chatted with before when he went up earlier this year, but I caught him too late in his mission for him to be able to go get it (my fault for forgetting that he was going up there). It’s amazing how many complaints people have about this cache, and the one at the ocean vent, yet have no problem when people place crap caches that also violate guidelines.

  • Chaneydog

    i think thats cool that there is one in space

  • Larry Northup

    Hiding in plain site, LOL. Classic! I’ve noticed quite a few in plain site caches actually. Ie a cache magnetic to an outlet(fake) in the side of a pole. Personally mileage should be only the distance from issue to next cache not times around the world. If you used that formula then all caches and bugs should get the same miles as the world rotates and moves through space in the same fashion

  • Tellingitlikeitis

    “It’s amazing how many complaints people have about this cache, and the one at the ocean vent, yet have no problem when people place crap caches that also violate guidelines.”

    Probably because you’re the one that can’t wrap your head around the fact this is the crappiest of crappy caches

    1: Because it’s not land based (GEO-caching doh), has no coordinates, etc x many
    2: “I recall reading somewhere” is the best fact checking you can do?
    3: The most accurate distance would be up and down; but not around and around endless times
    4: Yes we are
    5: Aren’t you special.
    This cache and the TB is basically cheating.

  • I was studied about Neil Alden Armstrong space research travel but, I don’t know how much risk he take? This post very interesting and useful. Very nice information. Thanks for sharing this information

  • BackpacknJack

    Here is the time I wish I was a great writer and had something memorable and profound to post about this but words fail me. Awesome seems such an over simplification of just how cool I think this is but it is all I have. Exceptions to the rules? Well yeah but many caches have exceptions so who cares.

  • Cindymelancon

    This by far is the neatest Geocaching story I have ever read. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Attawayg

    Why does there always have to be the naysayers. Why can’t you just see this as positive publicity for geocaching as a whole.
    Some people need to take a pill for too much analness. I think this is very cool! The reason for the complaints is probably because the ones that are complaining can’t get the smiley!!!!

  • Andylb912

    What is geocaching about?

    Is it about the guidelines? Is it about a measurable unit: how many, how far? Is it about ‘winning’?

    Or, is it about experiencing new things, seeing new places? Is it about the adventure?

    Isn’t geocaching about having fun?

  • 2luv2dance

    OMG, can’t believe people take the time to critique this. It’ exciting for geocaching and that’s enough for me!!!

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  • First of all,”All the best” to all the members of this Space Shuttle…I am hoping that you guys will soon come back from the mission you have….Today is 25 Feb,2011 and yesterday was the remarkable day for your life….
    vakantiehuizen mallorca

    Iram Holt.

  • Tango501

    I wonder where it is going next

  • Mcellen_30542

    O stop nitpicking and just enjoy. I see people here on earth breaking the rules so what, we are still enjoying being geocachers and geocaching. The one thing that bugs me is people picking up travel bugs and keeping them and not logging them and moving them which is nothing less then stealing because a travel bug and geocoin is someone elses property. Do something about that before you whine about what goes on in outer space. Or just sit back and enjoy or just SUSH !!!!!

  • The “cache” & “TB” are located on something that is manmade, right? That’s no different then people hiding them on manmade objects that are “on Earth”. I’ve seen them hanging from tree branches… so do those ones not count either? And I’m sure that the launch and landing sites for NASA have lat./long. cords that could be used… just with a REALLY large margin of error, lol. Either way, this “cache” & “TB” area huge promotion for Geocaching & should be shown respect for the simple reason that not all people that have gone into space have gotten to include their hobbies.

  • BatlethChaBo

    I hope the TB travels to events. I would love to see it.

  • Tonyhudspith

    This story captures the imagination and let’s us all dream about geocaching in different ways. Please continue to enjoy Geocaching is whatever way you can. i know for sure that I will be hunting down that travel bug when it returns to Earth. it’s part of Geocaching history.

  • Jorja33

    This is fantastic. Takes geocaching to a whole new level of respect!!!

  • JT

    Hi Jeff,
    Just saw this post and frankly, nothing surprises me anymore. One has to factor some do not have any intelligence of possibilities and only live in a black and white world.

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  • TheGreg79

    its just good publicity for geocaching. doesn’t everyone want more people to know about and take on geocaching as a hobby? isnt that the point as well? dont see why people need to gripe. try being happy that more caches may be appearing with new ideas and creativity from people that would have otherwise never heard of it. high five to groundspeak for making this exception and spreading the word about this great and healthy sport.

  • really a awesome post………….
    I like this so much .Thanks for sharing it.

  • Jazelle5402

    Hi, I was wonder ing if I could use your film clip in my presentation at school. I want to get some more people interested in geocaching. 

  • Jazelle5402

    I asked if I could use your video and you haven’t responded. Please respond as soon as possible. It is for school and I am ten.

  • You’re more than welcome to use the video for non-commercial (school) projects in it’s full and original form (don’t splice in other videos) – just play it from YouTube. Good luck! Let us know how the presentation goes!

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  • Wolfgang

    he did find ONE geocache and hid FIVE not reachable caches since 2002 (10 years). great fake for promotion but still a pathetic fake

  • Scrapcat

    Is there a follow-up to this? Did Michael Barratt make the flight and grab the bug? Did he leave a different one?

  • Terry Webb

    A dedicated cacher – I like it.  I don’t think I can ever beat that record.

  • Terry Webb

    Congratulations on being the record setter.  Not one I can ever hope to beat.

  • Pete Fowler

    I live in the south of NZ.  A friend travels to our subantarctic islands for work; the only place I haven’t been able to place a cache.  Our Dept. of Conservation don’t like introduced material being placed there.  There are several caches on the Antarctic continent though.

  • CowtownJohn

    This is way cool. I’m wondering too if Mr. Barratt was able to get it.

    All the naysayers and whiners, please do the rest of us a favor and go find some dark corner, start your own organization with it’s ironclad rules, and kindly leave geocaching to us who enjoy all aspects of the game and actually like to have fun. It’s people like you who kill the joy in this, yeesh.

  • Tirolerin

    Please an update…
    Regards from Innsbruck/Austria

  • Mykliv

    COOL !!! Someone finally did it !! I had an idea to try and get something up there years ago and gave up due to the cost of taking a pound of ANYTHING into space !! It certainly is cool to see someone follow through with this !!

    I for one think it would be very cool to see them put a cache site up there and it would be VERY cool indeed if they could actually continue to take a bug up and bring one back from time to time !! I personally think it could and would be a GREAT PR thing for NASA, ISS and human space flight, as a kind of “common-person” interaction with the space program. Something the program sometimes lacks.

    +1 guys !!! (and I would love to be the first in line to help design the ISS cache, if asked ! 🙂 )

  • Mygeo

    Wow.  How cool.  And for all the nay-sayers…get a life!  It’s just geocaching.  Not to trivialize the sport by any means, but who cares if it doesn’t meet certain requirements?  Once upon a time there were no geocaches, and guess what?  THere weren’t any rules, either.  The first one had food in it.  Does that invalidate it?  Of course not.  

    Enjoy the fact that our sport has gained some well-earned publicity.

  • The Travel Bug is now at Geocaching.com HQ, now through August 18, 2012. Join us at the Block Party to log the TB.  http://bit.ly/L9h1wY