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Anything for a friend: Martha Stewart visits  launch pad to watch pal 
blast off

By Maria Danilova
Associated Press

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan - Martha Stewart, the apostle of the cozy and the 
quaint, came Friday to the bleak space town of Baikonur to watch a 
billionaire friend blast off for the international space station.

Stewart, who parlayed her vision of gracious living into a business 
empire, is a longtime friend of Charles Simonyi, a software engineer and 
developer of Microsoft Word who paid $20-25 million for a 13-day trip to 
the international space station.

He will lift off Saturday, aboard a Soyuz space capsule with two Russian 

Stewart and Simonyi have been friends for about a decade, and some 
celebrity-gossip publications have suggested they're romantically 
linked. The Globe tabloid reported in 2005 that Stewart and Simonyi were 
set to wed, but rumors of their romantic relationship have dwindled since.

Her arrival in Baikonur inspired wide speculation that the two would 
announce their engagement before liftoff. A spokeswoman for Space 
Adventures, the company that arranged Simonyi's trip, declined to 
comment on her visit other than to say she would watch the launch.

Baikonur, a collection of worn concrete buildings amid the barren, 
seemingly endless Kazakhstan steppes, would seem extremely low on 
Stewart's list for an ideal place to announce her betrothal. But she's 
already made an attempt at sprucing up the space trip.

Stewart chose the menu for a gourmet meal that Simonyi will be taking to 
the ISS as a treat for his comrades in space. They plan a celebratory 
feast for April 12, which Russia observes as Cosmonauts' Day.

The menu includes quail roasted in Madiran wine, duck breast confit with 
capers, shredded chicken parmentier, apple fondant pieces, rice pudding 
with candied fruit, and semolina cake with dried apricots.

At the space travelers' final news conference, the 58-year-old Simonyi 
said he had spoken with Gregory Olsen, and Anousheh Ansari - the two 
most recent space tourists - "and they gave me a lot of advice not to 
move my head and not to drink too much before the launch."

Simonyi, born in Hungary, now lives in the Seattle area.

He began programming on a bulky Soviet computer called Ural-2 as a 
teenager in Hungary. He then traveled to Denmark to work as a programmer 
and moved to the United States in 1968, where he worked at Microsoft 
developing Microsoft Word and Excel and eventually founded his own 
software company.

He said his friend Microsoft CEO Bill Gates was excited about Simonyi's 
adventure. "I am in contact with Bill and he is very happy that I am 
doing this."

While at the space station, Simonyi will be conducting a number of 
experiments, including measuring radiation levels and studying 
biological organisms inside the lab. He will also be writing a blog that 
he hopes will inspire others, especially children, to get interested in 
space exploration.

"There is an element of hope. We don't quite know what we are going to 
find, but we have to go and see and find it," Simonyi said.


Simonyi's blog:


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