Sunday, April 08, 2007

"Microsoft Billionaire Charles Simonyi" blasted into space this morning on a Russian rocket. He was accompanied to the launch (for which he paid $25 million) by Martha Stewart, his current girlfriend, who planned the gourmet menu for the Soyuz flight.

It all sounds so very selfish and wasteful ... such a bastardization of the purpose of space exploration ... celebrity space travelers ... Martha Caters Soyuz ... $25 million joyride ...

But before you get whipped up over all that ego-driven conspicuous consumption, let me introduce those of you who don't know him to Dr. Charles Simonyi:

He isn't quite the "billionare thrill-seeker cum Martha's boyfriend" he's being made out to be. Dr. Simonyi left Hungary in 1968 and was part of the legendary Xerox PARC team, where he developed the first WYSIWYG word processor. He holds a degree in mathematical engineering from Berkeley, a PhD in computer science from Stanford, and a multi-engine aircraft pilot's license. He holds a special place in my heart for two reasons:

1) After leaving Xerox PARC, he headed the development team that created the Microsoft Word program ... and I love Microsoft Word.

2) He was a little Hungarian boy looking at the stars and dreaming about being a cosmonaut at the same time I was a little American girl lying in the grass in my backyard, looking at the stars and dreaming of being an astronaut.

Over on his blog,, you can read about his adventure in space. You can also read a variety of "Ask Charles" questions, many of which were written to insult the guy for his multimillion dollar joyride. I especially liked his response to whether such frivolous pursuits can be justified in the face of world poverty.

"We should not try to eliminate poverty by eliminating those things that people strive for."

So, Charles, here's hoping you have the flight of your dreams, and that it's everything you ever hoped it would be. If I had 25 million bucks I'd be on the next flight.



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