U.S. Billionaire Back After Ride Into Space
Simonyi Paid $25 Million for Dream Trip
KOROLYOV, Russia, April 21— A U.S. billionaire who won a junior cosmonaut contest as a child returned Saturday from a dream voyage to the international space station, riding a Russian capsule to a soft landing on the Kazakh steppe.
Charles Simonyi, 58, a native of Hungary who helped design Microsoft Word and Excel, smiled and chatted with rescuers who helped him gingerly out of the Soyuz capsule. He appeared energized by his $25 million, two-week trip.
The capsule carrying the space tourist, a Russian cosmonaut and a U.S. astronaut touched down after a more than three-hour return trip from the orbital station.
Asked about his first impressions back on Earth, Simonyi said in Russian, “The sun is shining, the weather is good,” in footage broadcast on state television.
Cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin told the network, “The first thing I felt on Earth was the smell.”
Spanish-born U.S. astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, the last out of the capsule, smiled and talked to the support crew as doctors monitored the men’s vital signs.
The astronaut set one U.S. record for continuous space flight by spending 215 days in orbit and another for taking 10 spacewalks over his career.
Simonyi arrived at the station on April 9 — also courtesy of a Soyuz, which flew into space atop a Russian rocket from the Russian-leased launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan — along with two other cosmonauts, who will remain on the station for about six months.
Also staying in orbit was Sunita Williams, an American astronaut who arrived in December.
Simonyi’s friend Martha Stewart watched his launch from Baikonur and was at Russian Mission Control outside Moscow when the Soyuz docked.
Simonyi followed in the footsteps of Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth, Gregory Olsen and Anousheh Ansari — all of whom have also traveled to the international space station aboard Russian rockets in trips brokered by U.S.-based Space Adventures Ltd.