Few people with an interest in space travel have the resources to make that dream a reality. In a few minutes, Charles Simonyi will be one of those people. He’s among the few space tourists who’ve paid the $20-$25 million for the experience. He has been chronicling his adventures at charlesinspace.com, an interesting and informative Web site where users can get answers about the various aspects of his preparation and travel. (You can watch the launch live here or click on the link above to choose your preferred player.)
I had the opportunity to meet Charles Simonyi last October when I was in the Seattle area giving a talk at Microsoft Research. I consider my experience a classic case of cultural capital at work. Both of us having grown up in Budapest – and it turns out just a few blocks from each other, although a few decades apart – likely was not enough of a reason for him to bother responding to my email. Rather, I suspect it was our shared interest in the Hungarian artist Victor Vasarely that prompted him to invite me for a tour of his house. It was super fun, Charles Simonyi has some wonderful works by Vasarely and others, and I very much enjoyed the opportunity to see his collection.
We also took a brief tour of his library in which he has some interesting original documents related to space travel. His passion for the topic is obvious and contagious. I look forward to the updates on his site about this amazing adventure.
In the above picture, I stand next to Charles Simonyi (he’s holding my father’s book The Martians of Science) with a Vasarely sculpture behind us. Photo credit goes to Marc Smith who kindly invited and hosted me on this visit to MSR.