Former Microsoft exec blasts into space in Russian Soyuz capsule

Simonyi, who headed development of Microsoft Office, makes second trip to space station

A former Microsoft executive blasted off into space this morning with the Expedition 19 crew aboard a Russian spacecraft headed for the International Space Station.

Charles Simonyi, a Hungarian native, headed up Microsoft Corp.'s application software group and oversaw the creation of the ubiquitous Office applications before leaving the company in 2002. Simonyi joined Microsoft in February 1981. During his 21 years there, he headed up early development of both Word and Excel and worked as an architect and distinguished engineer in the Microsoft Research organization.

Now Simonyi can add "two-time space traveler" to his resume. He flew to the space station in April 2007 with the Expedition 15 crew aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft.

The techie made his second trip into space today aboard the Soyuz TMA-14, which lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:49 a.m. Eastern for a 13-day expedition in space. The capsule also carried American astronaut and Flight Engineer Michael Barratt and Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, commander of the crew.

The capsule is expected to dock with the space station on Saturday.

Simonyi's capsule mates, Barratt and Padalka, are starting a six-month stay on the space station. Simonyi will return to Earth with Commander Mike Fincke and Flight Engineer Yury Lonchakov, members of the Expedition 18 crew who have served on the space station since October 2008. The trio will travel in the Soyuz TMA-13 craft that took the Expedition 18 crew to the station.

The space station has been receiving a lot of visitors for an orbiter that travels 220 miles above the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour.

Just yesterday, the seven-person crew of the space shuttle Discovery undocked from the space station after a nearly eight-day stay. During its mission, the space shuttle and station crew worked together to install new equipment that will help turn urine into drinkable water. They also conducting three spacewalks to unload, attach and set up the final piece of the space station's backbone and attach energy-generating solar arrays.

According to NASA, Simonyi is flying under contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency as a sort of space tourist. He is taking questions from visitors to his Web site, CharlesInSpace.com, which has a clock tracking his time in space and pictures from his space training and his first mission.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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