Russian capsule docks; ex-Microsoft exec begins stay

Russian spaceship, with crew and a space tourist, docks with station this morning

A former Microsoft executive took his place aboard the International Space Station after he and the Expedition 19 crew aboard a Russian spacecraft docked there Saturday.

Charles Simonyi, who helped develop both Microsoft Word and Excel, is on his second space flight. The space tourist also flew to the space station in April 2007 with the Expedition 15 crew aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft.

The Soyuz TMA-14, which lifted off Thursday morning from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan ( see video), docked with the space station at 9:05 a.m. EDT Saturday. The hatches between the two spacecraft opened at 12:36 p.m., letting the three space explorers aboard the Russian capsule join the space station's three-man crew.

Simonyi's capsule mates -- American astronaut and Flight Engineer Michael Barratt and Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, commander of the crew -- are starting a six-month stay on the space station. Simonyi, however, is slated to return to Earth with another crew on April 7.

The space station has been receiving a lot of visitors for an orbiter that travels 220 miles above the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour.

Just this past Wednesday, the seven-person crew of the space shuttle Discovery undocked from the space station after a nearly eight-day stay. During its mission, the space shuttle and station crew worked together to install new equipment that will help turn urine into drinkable water. They also conducting three spacewalks to unload, attach and set up the final piece of the space station's backbone and attach energy-generating solar arrays.

According to NASA, Simonyi is flying under contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency as a sort of space tourist. He is taking questions from visitors to his Web site, CharlesInSpace.com, which has a clock tracking his time in space and pictures from his space training and his first mission. He also has a Facebook page, where he has posted pictures from his previous mission along with images from his training.

Simonyi joined Microsoft in February 1981. During his 21 years there, he worked as an architect and distinguished engineer in the Microsoft Research organization.

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