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Wed, Apr 11, 2007

Simonyi 'Blown Away' By Trip Into Orbit

Says ISS IS "Full Of Stuff"

US space tourist Charles Simonyi arrived at the International Space Station and said he was "blown away.". During a news conference from space on Tuesday, the software billionaire said the station looked like a theater production when he and two Russian cosmonauts arrived aboard a Russian spacecraft the day before.

"It is amazing how it appears from the blackness of the sky," Simonyi told Reuters. "It was very, very dramatic. It was like a big stage set, a fantastic production of some incredible opera or modern play. That's what I was referring to when I said I was blown away," he said.

He went on to describe the ISS as "a cozy place," stating "it is full of stuff, as you see, it's full of knickknacks just like a home."

Simonyi, a 58 year old Hungarian born Computer Software Executive, is the fifth space tourist and only the second Hungarian in space. As head of Microsoft's application software group, he oversaw the creation of Microsoft's flagship Office Application Suite. He now heads his own company called Intentional Software. According to several sources, his net worth is estimated to be $1 billion. It is rumored that he paid over $25 million to the Russian space program for this trip.

The crew, Simonyi, and cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov, launched on Saturday, and is set to return to Earth on April 20 with Russian Mikhail Tyurin and American Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria.

According to NASA, Lopez-Alegria, along with Tyurin, has been on the station since September. Earlier this month, the 48-year-old US Navy captain broke the US record for longest space mission, with 196 days in space. By the time he gets back to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz, Lopez-Alegria (shown below) will have been in space 214 days... which is long enough, he said.

"I was really happy to stay here and kind of didn't want to go home until just recently when the day started approaching," he said. "I think seven months is just fine."

As Aero-News reported, US astronaut Sunita Williams -- who arrived at the station in December -- will stay with Yurchikhin and Kotov, possibly until August, which would give her the US record with more than eight months in space.

"I have no problem with staying as long as I need to be up here," said Williams.

The record for the longest spaceflight is 438 days, held by Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov, who set the mark aboard the Mir space station in 1994-95.

FMI: www.nasa.gov, www.spaceadventures.com

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