Charles in space: Hungarian space tourist loving the view from the International Space Station
Billionaire Charles Simonyi, the 5th civilian space traveller ever, has now completed more than a week of his 13-day space journey. He's currently enjoying zero gravity on board the International Space Station (ISS) with its current long-term crew Michael Lopez-Alegria and Sunita Williams. Private space tourism is taking off as an industry - even with trips like this costing around US$20 million, tour organiser Space Adventures is almost fully booked until 2009.
Simonyi made his fortune as one of Microsoft's most senior developers, overseeing the creation of Word and Excel during his time there before forming his own company, Intentional Software. During his spaceflight, he will complete over 190 orbits of the Earth and travel over five million miles before returning home on April 20 with the Expedition 14 crew members Tyurin and Lopez-Alegria.
Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures, the company which organized the spaceflights for the world's first and only private space explorers, said, “Charles has arrived at the space station and will spend... 10 days soaking up the spectacular beauty of the Earth from orbit, feeling the freedom of weightlessness, and most importantly communicating to the billons of people on Earth just how enjoyable spaceflight is. Our goal at Space Adventures is to provide the opportunity for as many people as possible to experience the wonder of space.”
The company is currently looking for a deep-pocketed individual to be the first to fly around the far side of the moon with them, giving an unique opportunity to see the spectacular Earthrise. At around US$100 million, the price might be difficult to justify to the wife, but the holiday snapshots would be really something.
In preparation for his spaceflight with Space Adventures, Dr. Simonyi completed a training program at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center located in Star City, Russia.
Now on the ISS, Dr. Simonyi continues to share his experiences on a daily basis through his web site, www.charlesinspace.com. The site’s new “Live Mission Coverage” section will feature live video from NASA TV, as well as Dr. Simonyi’s personal video and audio recordings direct from space. Dr. Simonyi will also continue to blog while in orbit and answer questions posed by visitors to his site.
Space Adventures, the only company to have successfully launched private explorers to space, is headquartered in Vienna, Va. with offices in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Moscow and Tokyo. It offers a variety of programs such as the availability today for spaceflight missions to the International Space Station and around the moon, Zero-Gravity flights, cosmonaut training, spaceflight qualification programs and reservations on future suborbital spacecrafts. The company's advisory board includes Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, Shuttle astronauts Sam Durrance, Tom Jones, Byron Lichtenberg, Norm Thagard, Kathy Thornton, Pierre Thuot, Charles Walker, Skylab astronaut Owen Garriott and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Usachev.