Software billionaire blasts into orbit as space tourist

The man given much of the credit for overseeing the development of Microsoft Corp.'s Word software blasted into space over the weekend as the fifth space tourist.

Charles Simonyi, who was once chief architect at Microsoft and now runs his own development company called Intentional Software Corp., began his journey into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at just after 11:30pm Saturday local time. Simonyi traveled with Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Fyodor Yurchikhin inside the Soyuz TMA10 spacecraft.

The three are due to dock with the International Space Station later Monday. Simonyi, who had to undergo six months of training for the flight, will spend more than a week on the space station before his scheduled return to earth on April 20.

The flight sees Simonyi occupy a seat that would otherwise have been vacant and was organized through Virginia-based Space Adventures. It cost Simonyi about US$20 million. While on board he will do some research work on behalf of the Hungarian Space Office, measuring the amount of radiation that he is exposed to onboard the ISS.

Simonyi has been keeping a blog during the build-up to launch and in his last entry, posted on Saturday morning, he wrote, "I'm really looking forward to the flight."

In addition to his work at Microsoft, Simonyi also invented Bravo, the first WYSIWYG editor, at Xerox Corp.'s Palo Alto Research Center.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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