RealTime IT News

Silicon Valley Goes Into Orbit

Got a few extra million just burning a hole in your pocket? A number of Silicon Valley pioneers are spending their spare change for a ticket into space.

There's such a race, like the lines at some Disneyland ride, as one high-tech luminary lands another prepares to blast off into orbit.

Former designer of Word and Excel, Microsoft billionaire Charles Simonyi, 58, is preparing for his March 9 trip to the International Space Station.

Simonyi, who left Microsoft in 2002, expects to pay between $20 million and $25 million for an eight-day trip aboard a Soyuz spacecraft and then the ISS.

Like any computer geek, Simonyi plans to blog while in orbit.

As Simonyi starts training later this month at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Moscow, Anousheh Ansari, the Iranian-born sponsor of the $10 million Ansari X-Prize recovers from her time aboard the space station last month.

The X-Prize foundation recently turned its attention to discovering a privately-developed lunar lander, as recently reported.

Paul Allen, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder, helped with Virgin Group's Richard Branson fund SpaceShipOne, the Burt Rutan-designed spacecraft that won the X-Prize in 2004.

Today, Allen and Branson have joined forced in Virgin Galactic, a venture already selling tickets for short space flights.

But Allen isn't the only Silicon Valley mover-and-shaker dreaming of the stars. In West Texas, Jeff Bezos, founder of e-tail giant Amazon.com, is planning to build his own private sub-orbital space facility as part of his Blue Origin firm.

Until Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic get off the ground, the single source for Silicon Valley space cadets is Vienna, Virginia-based Space Adventures Ltd., which had arranged for Simonyi, Ansari and others to catch a ride with a Russian rocket.

The company, along with offering a quick trip to the International Space Station, plans trips around the moon and is standing by to take your reservation for future suborbital spacecrafts.