Google founder Brin visits Russian space cosmodrome

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (Reuters) - Google co-founder Sergey Brin, considering going into space on a private flight, made a surprise visit to Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome on Saturday to wish good luck to a fellow space tourist.

Richard Garriott, a U.S. computer game developer and Brin’s friend, is due to blast off into orbit aboard Russia’s Soyuz spaceship on Sunday at 1:03 p.m. (0503 GMT) alongside U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke and Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov.

Brin, a native of Moscow, arrived at the sprawling Soviet-era complex along with Garriott’s friends and family members to cheer for the success of his journey to the International Space Station.

The Google billionaire has put down a $5 million deposit to book a flight into space with space tourism company Space Adventures but has not said if he would definitely go.

Space Adventures, which specializes in sending super-rich adventurers on trips to the ISS, said he could go as soon as 2011 as part of its planned private Soyuz flight programme.

In jeans and a black fleece, Brin looked relaxed as he toured, along with other U.S. visitors, the world’s oldest space launch facility which was originally set up in the 1950s as a clandestine missile test facility.

Garriott, who paid $35 million for his ticket to space, waved and joked as he talked with Brin and others during a private meeting from behind a glass quarantine panel designed to protect his health ahead of the blast off.

“I feel great. Thank you,” he said through a microphone, smiling.

The group cheered and laughed as Brin jokingly inquired whether Garriott would have access to the Internet on the ISS. As a good-luck gift, Brin gave him a camera memory card and wished him luck.

Other visitors included Charles Simonyi, a Microsoft developer, who traveled to space in April 2007.

Baikonur is a sleepy town in the barren steppes of central Kazakhstan.