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4/10/2007
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Charles Simonyi And His $25 Million Joyride In Outer Space

The billionaire software pioneer has embarked on a 10-day trip in space.

Charles Simonyi, the billionaire software pioneer who was called "one of the great programmers of all time" by Bill Gates, was relaxing at the International Space Station Tuesday after a successful rocket trip that began on a launch pad in Kazakhstan.

Simonyi, who refers to himself as a "nerd in space," was preparing to feast on gourmet food provided by his friend, lifestyle guru Martha Stewart, who was reportedly at the scene on the plains of Kazakhstan to see him off on his $25 million, 10-day trip in space

As the fifth civilian in space, Simonyi was a member of a team of astronauts launched in a Soyuz TMA spacecraft. The mission includes Russian cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov. At the space station, he joined U.S. astronauts Michael Lopez-Alegria and Sunita Williams.

"I consider my mission to be a small part of an important trend to make space accessible to more people," said Simonyi in a statement on his Web site. "I feel very lucky to be the world's fifth civilian space traveler."

Simonyi was scheduled to talk with students in U.S. schools as well as with students in his native Hungary. After Saturday's launch, Simonyi greeted his brother Tomas in Hungarian. He also talked with Stewart.

"Guess what, Charles," said Stewart. "You are now truly out of this world."

Simonyi said he would share the meal Stewart prepared for him with his fellow space pioneers on the space station on Thursday. Simonyi will talk with ham radio enthusiasts during his stay before he returns to Earth next week.

To this day, Simonyi remains an enthusiastic programmer and, as the co-founder of Intentional Software Corp., he says he's programming "harder than ever." Born in Budapest, he came to the U.S. and earned degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford. He was a member of the fabled team at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, whose researchers pioneered many advances in personal computing.

He was an early key player at Microsoft where he worked on Word and Excel.

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