Billionaire Space Tourist Returns to Earth
"So... uh, what did I miss?"
The capsule arrived after a more than three-hour return trip from the orbital station, carrying space tourist Charles Simonyi, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, and American astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, according to a spokesman at Mission Control outside Moscow.
Simonyi, a Hungarian-born software engineer, looked ecstatic after rescuers removed him from the capsule, which lay askew on the bleak grassland. He smiled and grinned as he spoke with the support crew.
Tyurin looked pale and tired, but managed a smile in a video link with Mission Control. Lopez-Alegria, the last out of the capsule, sighed with relief. Both had spent seven months on the international space station.
One of the final tasks the travelers performed was to move containers with biological experiments from refrigerators on the station into the Soyuz.
The capsule sped down to Earth after separating from the two other sections of the Soyuz TMA-9 craft following its departure from the station.
"I crossed my fingers all the way, and I am very happy now," Simonyi's brother Tamas said at Mission Control. "Yes, I was nervous, but now it's a big relief to know that he's safe and sound and that the crew is safe and sound."
Wiping her eyes with a tissue, Lopez-Alegria's wife, Daria, said she was not nervous "until the last minute."
"He missed him much more," she said, pointing to their 7-year old son Nicholas.
Simonyi arrived at the station on April 9 along with cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov, who remained on the station.
Simonyi, 58, amassed the fortune that made his $25 million voyage possible through his work with computer software, including helping to develop Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel.