Russian rocket carrying 'space tourist' lifts off
A Russian-made Soyuz rocket carrying two Russian cosmonauts and a U.S. "space tourist" to the International Space Station blasted off late Saturday from its launch pad in Kazakhstan.
The craft willbe takingcommander Fyodor Yurchikhin, flight engineer Oleg Kotov and Charles Simonyi, a Hungarian-born billionaire software engineer, toward a Monday rendezvous with the space station.
Simonyi, 58, is the fifth civilian to travel in space.His 13-day tripis costing him a reported $25 million US. The price tag included physical training and Russian language instruction over the past six months.
Martha Stewart, a friend of Simonyi, spent the final hours before the launch taking a ride aboard another mode of transport commonly seen around the gritty Baikonur space port on the barren steppes of Kazakhstan — a camel.
On Friday, Stewart shared a private moment with the billionaire — though only through a plate glass window, to protect him and his crewmates from germs.
"He's in excellent spirits," Stewart, 65, told the Associated Press. "He's very fit and very well-trained."
Simonyi, who now runs his own company, made his fortune while working at Microsoft, where he developed some of its most profitable programs, such as Word and Excel.
With files from the Associated Press