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Ex-Microsoft billionaire starts space tourism training in Russia

MOSCOW, September 7 (RIA Novosti) - An American software billionaire has become the latest potential space tourist to start training outside Moscow, the Space Training Center said Thursday.

Charles Simonyi, 58, a U.S. citizen of Hungarian descent and a key figure in developing Microsoft's Word and Excel applications, has signed a contract with Virginia-based orbital tourism firm Space Adventures this year for a 10-day science mission to the International Space Station in 2007.

"Simonyi is seriously determined for the flight and he is ready for thorough and gradual preparations," a training center spokesperson said, adding that the first stage of the course would take three weeks.

The source said Simonyi, who Forbes magazine put in 746th place in its 2006 list of the world's richest people, was remarkably different in his attitude to the flight from Daisuke Enomoto, a Japanese businessman who had failed his medical and appeared to be embroiled in a financial scandal in his homeland.

Tehran-born U.S. citizen Anousheh Ansari has replaced Enomoto on the 14th mission to the ISS, which is to be launched September 18 on board Soyuz TMA-9. She will become the first female space tourist after two American men and one South African. Ansari's predecessors in space are believed to have paid around $20 million for the pleasure.

The training center representative said it would be clear in 10 days whether Simonyi would have a backup. "The main thing is that he wants to learn more than is taught during the reduced 'tourist' course, which does him credit," he said.

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