Charles in Space: Liftoff at 12:39 CDT on 07 Apr 2007

If all goes as scheduled for Charles Simonyi, the next civilian will head into space at 12:39 p.m. CDT today, 07 April 2007.

On his webpage dedicated to coverage of this adventure in space, Charles posted "The Final Countdown", detailing what will happen on launch day. As I read through this, I wondered if launch day will be much less complicated ten years from now, as familiar to many people then as going to the airport for an airplane trip is for them today. And will those travelers ten years from now be heading up to one of George Bigelow's orbiting commercial space complexes, as hinted at in both this article in Aviation Week and this article on Space.com?

Space adventurers should have several choices of launching locations in a few years, ranging from the Kwajalein Atoll southwest of Hawaii, the Australian rocket pads of Woomera, the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan or the Centre Spatial Guyanais near Kourou, French Guiana, for orbital flights. Suborbital flights will launch from a plethora of spaceports including the Mojave Spaceport, Spaceport America and maybe even the Sheboygan, Wisconsin spaceport!

Charles is scheduled to return to Earth on 20 April. Between his liftoff today and his return in thirteen days, he'll have an enviable experience to go along with the other once-in-a-lifetime experiences he's already had, such as being selected as Hungary's 'junior astronaut' at age 13 (how's that for foreshadowing?), working at Xerox PARC with Alan Kay and Robert Metcalfe and becoming a millionaire by leading the development of Microsoft Word and Excel. I would love to talk with Charles and find out what goals he set for himself at various ages, what combinations of hard work and chance conversations or meetings have led him on his Journey through life, and what his future plans include. His main entrepreneurial interest at this point appears to be Intentional Software, "a software engineering company dedicated to perfecting relationships linked to software" -- it would also be fascinating to hear whether his space trip has influenced his thoughts and goals for Intentional Software, as well as what his thoughts are about software design for the FireSeed Streaming Supercomputer ad hoc tech project.

Onboard the International Space Station, Charles' planned activities include measuring radiation levels, testing high-definition cameras for the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, helping study the response of the human body to the microgravity environment aboard the space station and writing an internet blog. Although he is spending millions of dollars on his trip to the ISS, working on these experiments will make his time in space more memorable by contributing value to the the world's knowledge about space rather than just being a vacationing bystander.

Today is a time to read up on Charles Simonyi and to keep track of his launch. But it's also an opportune time to read up on civilian aerospace efforts in general and to dream of the possibilities for the future. There are plenty of articles and blog posts online to help you start dreaming or to give you new ideas; find current articles with Google News or Yahoo News or search for the blog topic of your choice with Technorati or Google Blog Search. Here are two websites as starting points -- one from Aviation Week and one from the BBC.



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