Charles Simonyi, the billionaire software executive who’s flown to space twice, says he doesn’t know who’s on SpaceX’s passenger list for a flight beyond the moon and back. But he knows at least one potential customer who’s not on it: himself.
Simonyi might seem to be in the sweet spot for the space adventure, which SpaceX billionaire founder Elon Musk says is in the works for as early as 2018.
The Hungarian-born computer scientist bought not just one, but two multimillion-dollar trips to the International Space Station, in 2007 and 2009. The Soyuz capsule he rode in 2009 is on display in the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. And thanks in part to his role as the architect for Microsoft Word, his estimated net worth amounts to almost $2 billion.
Today he’s the chairman and chief technology officer of Bellevue, Wash.-based Intentional Software, which has Eric Anderson as CEO. Anderson also serves as the chairman of Virginia-based Space Adventures, which arranged for Simonyi’s space trips and offers round-the-moon trips as well.
Simonyi says he’s intrigued by the idea of putting two paying passengers on a round-the-moon trip. Musk’s plan calls for sending the travelers in an autonomously guided SpaceX Dragon capsule that ranges as far as 400,000 miles from Earth but takes advantage of the moon’s gravitational pull for the homeward journey.
“It reminds me of Apollo 8,” Simonyi told GeekWire, referring to NASA’s risky round-the-moon mission in 1968. “The first manned use is audacious.”
He was curious about the details: Will a professional astronaut fly with the passengers? (SpaceX says no.) What’s the ticket price? (Musk declined to give a figure but said “it would be comparable to a little more than what the cost of a crewed mission to the space station would be.” That suggests an order-of-magnitude estimate of $100 million per person.)
Simonyi said he’s not buying a round-the-moon ticket anytime soon, mostly due to the cost. And besides, he’s got a family to think about: In 2008 he married Lisa Persdotter, the daughter of a Swedish millionaire, and they now have two daughters of their own.
But don’t be surprised if the 68-year-old Simonyi takes another trip to the final frontier someday.
“I’ve said before that if I could take the whole family – not around the moon, but to space – I would do it,” he said.