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The Fifth Space Tourist: American Entrepreneur Charles Simonyi Prepares for Liftoff

The Fifth Space Tourist: American Entrepreneur Charles Simonyi Prepares for Liftoff
American entrepreneur Charles Simonyi peers out of the hatch of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft simulator during prelaunch training for his 13-day flight to the International Space Station.
(Image: © Space Adventures.)

With hisbags packed and his menu set, American entrepreneur Charles Simonyi is ready tolaunch towards the International Space Station (ISS).

The Hungary-bornbillionaire is on track to rocket towards the ISS with two Russiancosmonauts aboard their Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft, now being primed for an April7 liftoff at the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

"The sightof the booster is staggering, even in its horizontal position," Simonyi wrotethis week on his mission blog at his Web site www.charlesinspace.com. "The scale isvery large, not as big as the Saturn V on display, but large nonetheless, plusit is here and now and ready to go."

Flying inspace has been a lifelong dream for Simonyi, 58, who memorized the names ofeach dog to fly in space as a child and, at age 13, represented then-Communist Hungary as a Junior Cosmonaut on a trip to Moscow. Now, the former Microsoft software developer isan accomplished pilot with his eyes on orbital spaceflight.

"I had nobasis for what to expect and I went into this project with a lot of hope," Simonyitold SPACE.com in a prelaunch telephone interview, adding that all hishopes and more have been met.

Simonyi isreportedly paying about $25 million for his 13-day flight to the ISS under anagreement between Russia's Federal Space Agency and the Virginia-based firmSpace Adventures.

Ridingalong with Simonyi are ISS Expedition 15 commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flightengineer Oleg Kotov, of Russia's Federal Space Agency, who will join NASAastronaut Sunita Williams aboard the station as the outpost's new crew.

TheMartha Stewart touch

Simonyiwill not turn up at the ISS porch empty handed. He is bringing with him a six-coursemeal selected by close friend Martha Stewart and prepared by French chef AlainDucasse's ADF consulting center.

The mealincludes quail roasted in Madiran wine, duck breast 'confit' with capers,shredded chicken parmentier and other gourmet specials that Simonyi intends toshare with the Expedition 14 and 15 astronauts.

"I amreally looking forward to sharing this dinner with my crewmates on the station,"Simonyi wrote in a blog entry.

Simonyitold SPACE.com that Stewart will be on hand to watch his launch fromEarth Saturday.

"Martha iscoming to the launch together with 50 other friends and I think she will have agreat time," Simonyi said.

Stewart calledthe space station's Expedition 14 crew in January and spoke with Williamsand ISS commander Michael Lopez-Alegria during a taping of her show MarthaStewart Living.

"Now Suni,please take care of Charles while he's there," Stewart asked Williams duringthe call. She later told USA Today that she and Simonyi were dating.

"He says he'svery organized...anything you have to clean, he's very good at it," Stewartadded.

Experimentsgalore

For Simonyi,flying in space for 13 days is more than a sightseeing tour. The space tourist plansto perform a series of experiments for the European Space Agency (ESA), JapanAerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Hungarian Space Office.

"Asthe world's fifth space tourist I think I have an obligation to assist withspace station research and to participate in experiments on behalf of internationalspace agencies," Simonyi has said. 

For JAXA,Simonyi will conduct a series of tests on high-definition computer cameras aspart of an ongoing evaluation of how their charged couple devices (CCDs)degrade in space environment. He will also use a Pille dosimeter for theHungarian Space Office to help map the radiationenvironment aboard the ISS.

"It is myhope that through this research project, we will be one step closer to a futurehuman permanence in space," Simonyi said of the radiation study.

Simonyialso expects to serve as a test subject for a series of ESA experiments aimedat understanding how the human body adapts to spaceflight.

Theexperiments cover a range of targets, including: temporary anemia astronauts experienceafter spaceflights, the influence of muscle changes on lower back pain inorbit, the effects of space radiation on ISS crewmembers and a study of thedifferent microbes currently living aboard the orbital lab alongside its humaninhabitants.

Simonyialso plans to speak with students from aboard the ISS during three HAM radiosessions, recordings of which will be posted to his Web site.

"Thehundreds of questions I've already received from children around the world onmy Web site are very mature and intelligent," Simonyi said in a statement. "It'sclear that today's young people are eager to learn about space and spacetravel, and it is great!"

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