Space tourist more of an optimist after trip

Seeing Earth from space has turned tourist Charles Simonyi into more of an optimist.

By TTM on 25 April 2007 in News

Simonyi, who led the teams that developed Microsoft's Word and Excel software, touched down on Saturday after spending two weeks aboard the International Space Station, orbiting 350 km (217 miles) above Earth. "I think the Earth is majestic, it's beautiful," he told reporters on Tuesday at Star City, a Soviet-era training base for cosmonauts near Moscow. "I am very optimistic and I came back very hopeful. I have more hope." Simonyi, 58, said he had many fond memories of the trip, which only four other tourists have made before him. He added he would have happily prolonged his stay: "One month I would have stayed, no questions." The American NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who came back to Earth with Simonyi and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, said NASA was studying how the human body reacts to long spaceflight in order to eventually send astronauts to Mars. Simonyi said he hoped tourists would one day be able to fly to the moon, which he thought very feasible aboard the Russian rocket that ferried him to and from the space station. Flight engineer Tyurin agreed it was technically possible, but added it was important to think through the purpose of flying to the moon: "After all, it's the moon, not a visit to the La Scala theatre to listen to music. We have to understand why we want to fly there." Gaining a new perspective on the world may be a part of the answer, said Chris Faranetta, a senior executive at the travel agency that arranged all five tourist flights into space. "Charles showed us a new point of view," Faranetta said after Simonyi arrived at the space station earlier this month and floated upside down while his fellow crew stayed upright.


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