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Microsoft Word Developer Blasts Into Space

Charles Simonyi, a former Microsoft executive who oversaw creation of the company's ubiquitous Microsoft Word software and other Office products, on Thursday blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Russian-made Soyuz-TMA spacecraft bound for the International Space Station.

The trip is the second into space for Simonyi, a software industry billionaire. As such, it's a record for a private citizen.

"We applaud Charles on his continued commitment and investment to commercial spaceflight," said Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures, in a statement. "Having a repeat orbital client demonstrates to the world that participating in a space mission is truly a magnificent and awe-inspiring experience."

Simonyi was joined aboard the spacecraft by fellow Expedition 19 crew members Gennady Padalka, a Russian cosmonaut, and NASA astronaut Mike Barratt.

Space Adventures is a private firm that arranges trips into the cosmos for the wealthy. Since beginning operations eight years ago, the company has launched six individuals into space, including Simonyi.

In 2011, Space Adventures plans to launch the first private mission to the International Space Station in partnership with the Russian Federation's Federal Space Agency. The mission will mark the first time that a Soyuz spacecraft has been given over entirely to private citizens.

Simonyi's interest in space travel is nothing new. The Hungarian native represented his country as a junior cosmonaut and won a trip to Moscow to meet Pavel Popovich, one of the Soviet Union's first space explorers.

Simonyi worked at Xerox's famed Palo Alto research facility from 1972 to 1980, before leaving to join Microsoft. He now runs his own company, Intentional Software.