March 31, 2009Dr Charles Simonyi has made history by becoming the first person to leave Earth for a second time as a space tourist. Space Adventures, Ltd., the only company that currently provides space missions for tourists, has just announced that their orbital client and his crew have successfully arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) after launching onboard the Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 26.

The great adventure into outer space

A few wealthy and brave tourists have already joined the elite group who have made the trip including Californian Denis Tito, South African technology millionaire Mark Shuttleworth and Google co-founder Serge Brin booking of his flight with a cool USD$5 million deposit.

Space Adventures, based in Vienna, Va. with an office in Moscow, 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. It has also recently announced its intentions to establish two integrated space ports in Singapore and Dubai.

The mission

The Soyuz TMA-14 docked to the ISS at 9:05 a.m. (EDT) with Dr. Simonyi and Expedition 19 crewmembers Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and NASA astronaut Michael Barratt. They were greeted at approximately 12:30 p.m. (EDT) by the Expedition 18 crew, which includes NASA astronaut Michael Fincke, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, when the hatch to the space station opened.

Dr. Simonyi made his previous fight to the ISS in spring 2007 as Space Adventures’ fifth orbital client. Dr. Simonyi will complete more than 190 orbits of the Earth before returning home on the Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft with Expedition 18 crew members Fincke and Lonchakov on April 7.

Dr. Simonyi will share his spaceflight experiences on a daily basis through his web site with live video from NASA TV, as well as Dr. Simonyi’s audio recordings direct from space. Dr. Simonyi will also continue to blog while on the space station and answer questions posed by visitors to his site. Students can participate in his mission by taking an online Kids’ Quiz.

About Charles Simonyi

Dr. Simonyi from an early age established an entrepreneurial path that would lead him to his great space adventure. Dr Simonyi was born in Budapest and at the age of 13, represented Hungary as a junior cosmonaut and won a trip to Moscow to meet one of the first cosmonauts, Pavel Popovich. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering and mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley and a doctorate in computer science from Stanford University. From 1972 to 1980, Dr. Simonyi worked at Xerox Corporation's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). He left PARC to join Microsoft Corporation, where Dr. Simonyi held the titles of Director of Application Development, Chief Architect and Distinguished Engineer, leading the development of Microsoft Word and Excel. In 2002, Dr. Simonyi left Microsoft and founded Intentional Software Corporation, an engineering company focused on improving the way organizations write software. He is a trained pilot in multi-engine aircraft and instrument flying, currently holding licenses for jets and helicopters, and has logged more than 2,000 hours of flying time. In 2007, he became the fifth private citizen to travel into space.

The good news for those who don't have the required millions lying around to cover the cost of a trip to the ISS, cheaper (though still beyond the reach of most of us) options are just around the corner, the most notable being the upcoming launch of Virgin Galactic which is expected to begin sub-orbital flights sometime around 2011 at a cost of USD$200K.

David Greig

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