Next Space Tourist Launches Website, Aims for Orbit

Next Space Tourist Launches Website, Aims for Orbit
Space tourist-in-training Charles Simonyi sits inside a Soyuz spacecraft mockup clad in a Russian Sokol spacesuit. (Image credit:

With a March2007 spaceflight in hand, American spacetourist-in-training Charles Simonyicelebrated with a launch of his own Thursday as he debuted a personal websitewhere he'll document his trek to the International SpaceStation (ISS).

Simonyi[image], 58, is now set to launch towards the ISS on March 9, 2007 aboard a Russian-builtSoyuz TMA-10 spacecraft that will also ferry twoExpedition 15 cosmonauts to the orbital laboratory. He plans to lay downhis training and flight experiences on the Internet at his website:

"I want toshare all that I learn with everybody, especially with kids so that they maybecome more involved with space sciences," said Simonyi, a former Microsoftsoftware developer and co-founder of Intentional Software Corp., during aThursday press conference at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. "I amvery honored and excited to be joining the Soyuz TMA-10 mission."

Simonyi'strip is the result of a deal between Russia's Federal Space Agency and theVirginia-based firm Space Adventures, which has arranged ISS-bound flights forfour paying customers - most recently U.S. entrepreneur AnoushehAnsari - since 2001.

Previousspace tourist treks to the ISS were estimated to cost about $20 million, butthat price tag is rising to $25 million, Space Adventures president and CEO EricAnderson said.

"It will besafe to say that Charles is paying a little more than $20 million, but not morethan $25 million," Anderson said during the briefing.

For his fee,Simonyi will spend an intense six months training for a 10-day spaceflight thatincludes eight days aboard the ISS. He will launch towards the space station withExpedition 15 commander FyodorYurchikhin and flight engineer Oleg Kotov, and return with Expedition14 commander MichaelLopez-Alegria and flight engineer MikhailTyurin.

UnlikeSpace Adventures' last paid ISS flight, there is no back-up spaceflyersupporting Simonyi. Ansariserved as the back-up for Japanese businessman Daisuke Enomoto.She flewin Enomoto's place after he faileda preflight medical check.

Simonyi haspassed all required medical checks with flying colors, Anderson said.

Theupcoming spaceflight appears to be the culmination of a lifelong interest forSimonyi who--at age 13 in 1963--was selected as his native country Hungary's JuniorAstronaut and sent to Moscow, where he met cosmonaut PavelPopovich.

"Naturally I was interestedin space," Simonyi said. "I was so interested I learned the names of all the spacedogs."

A dedicated flyer, Simonyihas racked up more than 2,000 hours piloting jets and helicopters and said hisfamily supports his upcoming space shot. He added that he will dedicate themission towards the advancement of civilian spaceflight while serving as a testsubject for biomedical experiments and working to inspire today's youth.

"Space isan adventure," Simonyi said. "I think it is a very good hook to get kidsinvolved."

There is apossibility that Simonyi's flight may be delayed to early April. The Russiannews wire service Ria Novosti reported last week that Federal SpaceAgency officials were discussing whether to delay the mission to avoid theflooding season at the Kazakhstan landing site where Simonyi and the Expedition14 astronauts will touch down.

But NASA spokesperson Kylie Clem at theJohnson Space Center told that those discussions are still ongoingand far from final.

In themeantime, Simonyi is due to head back to Russia's Yuri Gagarin CosmonautTraining Center in Star City on Saturday to resume work.

"Mytraining is rigorous," said Simonyi, who is working hard to add Russian to the wideranks of languages in which he is fluent on top of his physical exercise. "I'mreally enjoying it."

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.