March 6, 2009

Space Tourist Ready For Second, More Expensive Flight

Software mogul Charles Simonyi told reporters on Thursday that he pays no mind to the additional $10 million he will pay to Russia for his upcoming journey into space.

Simonyi, who earned his wealth as the head of Microsoft's application software group, is expected to spend 11 days on his journey from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome to the International Space Station. He spent $25 million on his first space trip in April 2007, but since then the price has risen to $35 million.

"It's money that is spent on space exploration.... Russia is the only country in the world which offers those services," Simonyi told reporters at the Star City training center near Moscow.

"I think space tourism is probably the only business model that is a viable business model for manned space flights, where you can actually make a profit."

Simonyi's flight is set to launch March 26 and return to Earth April 6.

Simonyi, 60, told reporters the upcoming flight would be his last, according to orders from his new wife.

"I decided to fly before I got engaged and my wife agreed that I would be able to fly just once more, so I cannot fly a third time," he said.

"When you have a family and children you have lots of responsibilities."

He told the AP that he was "not concerned" about possible complications resulting from debris coming from last month's satellite collision.

"The monitored orbits are very safe," said the Hungarian-born billionaire.

Simonyi's flight is the last of seven planned space tourist flights to the International Space Station. Russia's space agency said in January that after the ISS crew is doubled from three to six members, there will no longer be room for visiting space tourists.

"I don't think I will be the last space tourist. I think I might be the last one for a while," said Simonyi.

US-based Space Adventures offered to allow Simonyi the chance to leave the ISS for a six-hour space walk for an extra $10 million.

"Its not something I would undertake at my age," he told Reuters. "It's also very expensive."


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