American Software Developer to Visit Space Station
Software Developer Charles Simonyi is set to visit the International Space Station aboard a future Soyuz spacecraft.
Credit: BRian Smale/Intentional Software Corp.

Former Microsoft software developer Charles Simonyi is set to become a space tourist for a visit to the International Space Station (ISS), the orbital tourism firm Space Adventures said Monday.

Simonyi, a 58-year-old American and co-founder of Intentional Software Corp., will ride a Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS for a one-week science mission aboard orbital laboratory, Space Adventures said, adding that a contract for the spaceflight is in hand.

The Russian news agency RIA Novosti also reported today that Simonyi had signed a preliminary contract with Russia's Federal Space Agency for a Spring 2007 spaceflight though the Virginia-based Space Adventures did not specify a target launch date in their statement.

Simonyi's flight, however, must wait until after the planned September 2006 launch of Japanese entrepreneur Daisuke Enomoto, who is currently training to rocket toward the ISS with the Expedition 14 astronaut crew later this year. Enomoto's space station visit was also brokered by Space Adventures.

"Like with any long term plan, I had to make reservations," Simonyi said in a statement. "A lot of training and work remains to be done before such a flight can be consummated."

Simonyi has completed a preliminary training regime and undergone medical examinations to qualify for a Soyuz ride to the ISS, Space Adventures said.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, Simonyi joined Microsoft in 1981, where he served as director of application development, chief architect and ultimately distinguished engineer, according to his corporate profile. He studied engineering mathematics at the University of California at Berkley before earning a doctorate in computer science from Stanford University. Simonyi co-founded Intentional Software Corp. with Gregor Kiczales in 2002.

Space Adventures CEO Eric Anderson said Simonyi is an accomplished pilot and well-versed in aviation and aerospace technology.

"I have always dreamed of the wonder of spaceflight and the exploration of space has always inspired me," Simonyi said, adding that he believes in the pursuit of ever-more accessible commercial spaceflight. "I consider my future flight to be a small part of an important trend to make space accessible to more people, not just to experts."

Space Adventures has brokered ISS-bound flights for American businessmen Dennis Tito and Gregory Olsen, South African Internet entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth and most recently Enomoto. Each of those private spacefarers paid a reported $20 million for a 10-day spaceflight, eight of which are spent inside the space station.

In addition to arranging space station flights aboard Soyuz spacecraft for those who can afford it, Space Adventures also offers jet rides aboard Russian MiG aircraft and airplane flights that simulate weightlessness. The space tourism firm is also developing plans for $100 million trips around the Moon, and plans to build fleet of suborbital spaceships to launch from spaceports in the United Arab Emirates and Singapore.