26 March 2009
Announcements - Tourism (Good)
Dr. Charles Simonyi Returns to Space
The Second Time Around
by G B Leatherwood
“The second time around” usually refers to marriages, love affairs, and attempts to finish what one started.

But for Dr. Charles Simonyi, it means doing something no one else--other than professional astronauts and cosmonauts--has done. On Thursday, 26 March 2009, he lifted off from the Baikonur space complex for his second trip to the International Space Station along with Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and US astronaut Mike Barratt.

Simonyi will spend 11 days on his trip this time, returning to earth on 6 April. Russia has already announced that this is to be the last flight by a paying space tourist due to pressure on seats from its main space partner the United States and others.

Like another space traveler, Anousheh Ansari, Simonyi bristles some if referred to as a “tourist.” “I think of this flight as a continuation of the first flight. When you do something and you learn a skill I think it’s a great opportunity to use that skill, to be more efficient,” Simonyi said.

He will continue with a packed schedule of scientific observations and his practice of communicating daily by radio with students around the world to encourage both them and others to continue the human exploration of space.

As reported by Space-Travel.com, Simonyi shrugged off the additional US$10 million more than his first trip in the spring of 2007 as the fifth orbital client of US space travel broker Space Adventures. “It’s money that is spent on space exploration…Russia is the only country in the world which offers these services. 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.”

Asked it he might consider a third flight, Simonyi said he had renounced the idea for the sake of his recent marriage to Swedish millionaire’s daughter Lisa Persdotter. “I decided to do this flight before I got engaged, and me (sic) and my wife agreed that I would be able to fly just once more. So I cannot fly the third time. My wife is absolutely against it,” he said.

We can’t help but wonder, though, whether Ms. Persdotter, daughter of a millionaire and now married to another, might not have other plans for that kind of money. That’s quite a chunk of change for eleven days, no matter how spectacular.
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G B Leatherwood 26 March 2009
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