In late March, billionaire Charles Simonyi is heading to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket for the second time, making him the first space tourist to make two trips.
That’s nice for Simonyi, who made his fortune as the head of Microsoft’s application software group, where he helped create several key Office applications, including Excel and Word. It’s not so nice for technology prognosticator and angel investor Esther Dyson, who in October began a $3 million cosmonaut training program at a center near Moscow. The six-month-long program was to prepare Dyson for her own space trip to the ISS, and she’d be going, too, if Simonyi had decided against doubling down. As she told MSNBC in October, “I got my first medical back in May, well before Charles decided to go again.” (The bastard.)
Simonyi is making a couple of sacrifices to make his upcoming trip, which he discusses at greater length in this newly published Q&A with Popular Science magazine. For one thing, he’s spending a staggering amount of money to see the stars up close. His first trip cost him $25 million. This time, he’s shelling out $35 million.
Being in space also means being away from his new bride, 28-year-old Swedish investment banker Lisa Persdotter, who Simonyi married in Gothenburg, Sweden in November. Indeed, Simonyi tells the magazine that he’s bringing along a stuffed seal that his wife has had since she was a baby.
Simonyi says it’s because the plush toy will help illustrate when the astronauts become weightless.