Billionaut Charles Simonyi blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Thursday for a 13-day trip to the International Space Station. The Microsoft mogul flew aboard the Soyuz TM-14 spacecraft with NASA astronaut Michael Barratt and Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka.
Simonyi is paying a reported $35 million for the trip, which comes out to $2.69 million for each day in space. He flew to the space station in 2007 for only $25 million.
This will be the last tourist trip to the orbiting laboratory for at least two years. With the station’s permanent crew set to double from 3 to 6 this year, and NASA’s planned retirement of the space shuttle next year, Soyuz seats will be at a premium.
Virginia-based Space Adventures – which booked Simonyi’s trip – expects to restart tourism flights in 2011. They would charter an extra Soyuz flight to the station each year that would be flown by one pilot with two paying tourists aboard. Russian officials have confirmed the plans.
Cosmonaut Padalka and astronaut Barratt will stay aboard the station with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who is currently onboard. Simonyi will return with current ISS commander Michael Fincke and flight engineer Yury Lonchakov.