Ex-Microsoft man is next space tourist

First 'nerd' in space, he says

The man who led the development of Microsoft's Word and Excel programs is about to be sent into space.

This is not, as you might surmise, a one way trip paid for by hacked-off accountants and people who looked like they "might be writing a letter", but a voluntary trip he's paying for himself.

In fact, Charles Simonyi, 58, is set to become the 450th person in space, and the fifth amateur cosmonaut to fly to the International Space Station (ISS). He also claims to be the first nerd heading for orbit.

He is slated to take off on 9 March, 2007, provided he completes his training and passes all the medical tests.

Simonyi told the BBC that he had three goals: "One of them is to advance civilian spaceflight, the second to assist space station research, and the third to involve kids in space sciences," he said.

He says he plans to learn Russian as part of his preparation, and will also bone up on the workings of the rocket that will take him to the space station.

"Learning about the systems is part of my engineering curiosity and makes the whole experience so much more interesting when I understand exactly what is going on and, for example, why the flight is safe," he explained.

After the eight minute journey to orbit, on board a Russian Soyuz rocket launched from the Baikonaur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the software engineer will spend two days travelling to the ISS. He'll spend eight days on board before returning to Earth.

As with other high profile space tourists, Simonyi has organised his trip through Space Adventures. The ticket to the ISS is thought to cost between $20m and $25m. ®

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