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Longest Holiday In Space Ends As Russia Touts Lunar Tour Within Five Years

The next space tourist - Roman Abramovich.
by Staff Writers
Moscow (SPX) Apr 23, 2007
As Russia's latest space tourist vovage ended, the Russia's Space Agency signaled it was ready to considering sending Russia's richest man, London-based Roman Abramovich, on a flight around the Moon for $300 million after 2010.

"Some press reports have said Roman Abramovich has submitted his candidacy for flying around the Moon for $300 million," Anatoly Perminov, head of the agency, told RIA Novosti. "The figure is attractive, and ... we will consider the proposal after 2010."

Perminov added that until 2009 all space tourist flights have been booked.

earlier related report
25 Million Dollar Adventure
Moscow (AFP) - The world's fifth space tourist, Hungarian-born American billionaire Charles Simonyi, returned to Earth Saturday, describing his 25-million-dollar trip as "terrific".

The Soyuz capsule carrying Simonyi, 58, and two crew members from the International Space Station, Mikhail Tyurin of Russia and American Miguel Lopez-Alegria, touched down as planned in the steppes of Kazakhstan, a spokesman for Russia's space centre said.

Television pictures showed Simonyi smiling and looking relaxed as he lay on the grass of the steppe, his space helmet off, enjoying the sunshine.

"It was terrific," he told the Vesti 24 channel in English. "It's good to be back on Earth."

The former Microsoft whizz kid who made his fortune helping develop the company's Word and Excel software broke the record for space tourists by spending 14 days in space.

The lift-off on April 7 from the Baikonur launchpad drew more than the usual attention as he received a cosmic bon voyage from US homemaking queen Martha Stewart, fuelling the rampant romantic gossip about the couple.

The relationship did influence Simonyi's time on the space station, where he planned to prepare a gourmet dinner for his ISS hosts, along with conducting experiments and recording his impressions on an Internet blog,

Stewart was not in Kazakhstan for the landing back on Earth, a spokesman in Moscow for Space Adventures, which organises the multi-million-dollar excursions, told AFP. The US-based company markets one of three seats on the Soyuz on behalf of the Russian Space Agency.

An unidentified woman was seen on television embracing Simonyi on his return and heard saying, "I haven't been through what you've been through," as Simonyi explained that the trip back to Earth was difficult because he could not move his head during the entire descent.

"You just look great," she added.

The software engineer had arrived at the ISS on April 9, with Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Fyodor Yurchikhin who were relieving Tyurin and Lopez-Alegria for a 190-day shift in orbit.

The three returning space travellers were to be taken by helicopter to Karaganda, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of the Kazahk capital Astana, where after undergoing medical examinations they would be flown to Moscow, the ITAR-TASS news agency said.

Simonyi, who left his native Hungary at the age of 17 for the United States, was the fifth tourist to travel to the ISS, following Dennis Tito (2001) and Greg Olsen (2005) of the United States, South Africa's Mark Shuttleworth (2002) and an American of Iranian origin, Anousheh Ansari (2006).

Space Adventures plans to expand its offerings next year to include a 100-million-dollar orbit of the moon and a 100,000-dollar budget option: five minutes of sub-orbital space flight.

Eric Andersen, boss of Space Adventures, said when Simonyi took off that the company had another client for a flight this year who would go public within a few months.

earlier related report
Space Adventures' Client Complets Longest Duration Private Spaceflight
Vienna VA (SPX) Apr 22 - Space Adventures, Ltd., the world's leading space experiences company, announced today that Charles Simonyi, Ph.D., successfully landed in the Kazakhstan steppes after a 14-day visit to the International Space Station (ISS). Dr. Simonyi returned to Earth aboard Soyuz TMA-9 with Expedition 14 crew members Michael Lopez-Alegria and Mikhail Tyurin, who both spent seven months aboard the ISS.

"Seeing the space station for the first time from inside the Soyuz was such an unforgettable experience. Seeing the Earth from space, so beautiful, majestic and calm, has filled me with great optimism," said Dr. Simonyi. "I think it is written into our DNA to explore. Space exploration is so important to humanity, that to have been able to participate in it, even in a very small way, was such a privilege."

"We, at Space Adventures, applaud Charles, not only for pursuing his lifelong dream of space travel, but for taking his own personal step toward opening up the space frontier for all of us. Charles is an inspiration and it has been a pleasure and an honor to help make his goal of spaceflight a reality," said Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures.

Earlier in the month, on April 7, Dr. Simonyi launched aboard Soyuz TMA-10 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. He joined Expedition 15 commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Oleg Kotov for the flight. They arrived at the space station on April 9 and were greeted by the Expedition 14 crew.

In preparation for his spaceflight with Space Adventures, Dr. Simonyi completed a training program at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center located in Star City, Russia. During his 11-day stay aboard the ISS, Dr. Simonyi assisted several international space agencies by conducting experiments, communicated with hundreds of high school students via HAM radio signal in cooperation with Amateur Radio on the ISS (ARISS) and celebrated Cosmonautics Day by presenting a gourmet meal to the space station crew.

Now back on solid ground, Dr. Simonyi will continue to share his experiences on his site, expanding upon the accounts of his time aboard the ISS, and providing insights into his landing and return to Earth. Additionally, children can continue to visit the site's "Kids' Space" and earn an official "Charles in Space Certificate of Achievement."

Dr. Simonyi's mission to the ISS is the latest destination in a life defined by exploration and discovery. Born in Budapest, Charles Simonyi earned his Bachelor of Science degree in engineering and mathematics from the University of California at Berkeleyand a doctorate in computer science from Stanford University.

From 1972 to 1980, Dr. Simonyi worked at Xerox Corporation's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). He left PARC to join Microsoft Corporation, where Dr. Simonyi held the titles of Director of Application Development, Chief Architect and Distinguished Engineer.

In August of 2002, Dr. Simonyi left Microsoft and founded Intentional Software Corporation, a software engineering company focused on improving the way organizations write software. He then founded the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences in 2003 to support arts organizations, science programs and educational institutions. Dr. Simonyi is a trained pilot in multi-engine aircraft with current licenses in jets and helicopters and more than 2,000 hours of flying time.

earlier related report
ISS Crews Swap Out As Station Status Remains Nominal
Houston TX (SPX) Apr 20 - The 14th crew of the International Space Station, Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin, along with spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi landed their Soyuz spacecraft in the steppes of Kazakhstan at 7:31 a.m CDT Saturday.

The Expedition 14 mission included many highlights during its seven-month duration, including the setting of several records. Lopez-Alegria completed five spacewalks, which gave him a total of 10 for his career. This set a U.S. record for not only number of spacewalks, but also cumulative spacewalk time, 57 hours, 40 minutes. He also set a U.S. record for a single spaceflight's duration with more than 215 days. This tops the 196-day mark, previously set by station crew members Dan Bursch and Carl Walz in 2001 and 2002.

During the mission Flight Engineer Sunita Williams set the record for number of space walks and total time spent on spacewalks by a woman. She participated in four space walks for a total of 29 hours and 17 minutes. Williams will remain on the station for the first part of the new mission.

Three of the crew's spacewalks were conducted over the course of nine days, an unprecedented schedule for a station crew. Starting from scratch, it takes about 100 crew-member hours to prepare for a spacewalk. By doing them a few days apart, considerable crew time can be saved by not having to repeat some of those preparatory steps.

Before closing the Soyuz-station hatches at 1:03 a.m. Saturday, Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin said farewell to the Expedition 15 crew, Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, flight engineers Oleg Kotov and Williams. The new crew and Simonyi launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 7 and arrived at the station on April 9. Simonyi, a U.S. businessman, spent 12 days aboard the station under a contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency.

Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin will now spend several weeks in Star City, near Moscow, for debriefing and medical examinations. Their return to Earth was originally scheduled for Friday, April 20, but was delayed due to wet ground conditions, which could have precluded helicopter operations. The one-day change allowed for touchdown in a landing zone farther to the south.

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Back To The Moon For Some Reconnaissance
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Apr 20, 2007
Of the two luminaries that dominate our sky, it is the moon that is of particular interest to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) project. The LRO will travel to the moon in late fall 2008, mapping the surface to help pave the way for humans to return. It will help prepare us for extended surface exploration on the moon and for subsequent missions to Mars and other distant destinations. Lunar surface exploration will help us to practice living, working, and gathering science data before we venture into riskier territory.

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