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Microsoft Billionaire Charles Simonyi Caught in Potty Contretremps

As if U.S.-Russia relations weren’t sufficiently strained already, now comes word that the space tourists who recently traveled to the International Space Station and return Wednesday have been living out a Cold War of their own.

At least, NASA and the Russian governments would reportedly have it that way. Fifty-year-old Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka —  who’s currently in space with four other individuals, including Microsoft billionaire Charles Simonyi —  says immediately before the Russian Soyuz rocket took off from Kazakhstan, he was told he couldn’t use a U.S. gym aboard the space station, or to eat any U.S. rations, or even to use the same toilet(!) used by Americans. (That toilet, btw, apparently cost NASA around $19 million back in 2007.)

Padalka didn’t blame his American mates for the bathroom brawl. Instead, he told the Russian paper Novaya Gazeta that since 2005, when space missions began to be commercialized and Russia began billing U.S. astronauts for its services, America has begun to act out.

“Cosmonauts are above the ongoing squabble, no matter what officials decide” Padalka added: We are grown-up, well-educated and good-mannered people and can use our own brains to create normal relationship.”

Simonyi is the first space tourist to make two trips to the space station; they haven’t come cheap, either. Simonyi — who made his fortune as the head of Microsoft’s application software group, where he helped create several key Office applications — has collectively paid out $60 million for his space adventures.