Simonyi back on Earth

The fifth commercial visitor to the ISS, Charles Simonyi, is safely back on Earth, landing in Kazakhstan a few hours shy of two weeks after his launch from Baikonur. “It’s good to be back, to be back on Earth,” he said after landing, according to Earlier, when he was leaving the ISS with NASA astronaut Mike Lopez-Alegria and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, he called the departure a “bittersweet moment”: “We are very sad leaving the station but we are looking forward, all of us, to continuing our work on Earth.”

Simonyi will be the last commercial tourist to visit the ISS for some time: the seats on the next two Soyuz taxi flights, in fall 2007 and spring 2008, will be occupied by guest cosmonauts from Malaysia and South Korea, meaning the next tourist flight opportunity won’t come until the fall of 2008. Despite various rumors, there’s been no announcement about who would fly next, although Space Adventures has hinted it would make an announcement in the next several weeks.

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