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Next space tourist dreams of library in orbit
MOSCOW, Feb 18 (AFP) Feb 18, 2007
The world's next space tourist, Hungarian-born American software developer and billionaire Charles Simonyi, said Sunday he would like to see a library in outer space.

"Everywhere where humans are I think there should be a library," 58-year-old Simonyi, who is scheduled to become the world's fifth space tourist in April, told AFP in an interview in Moscow.

"There should be books and there should be a library," he said, pointing out that despite weight limitations he would pack two indispensable books in his space pack: "Faust" by German master Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" by science fiction writer Robert Heinlein.

The latter "describes a particular future where humanity gets outside the Earth and it deals more with the politics of the situation than the particular (technology) involved," he said, adding "it's a lot of fun."

Faust, meanwhile, "is a part of our literary heritage. It belongs to all of humanity and it deals with man's relationship with the universe and man's relationship to science," he said, adding that there was no better place than space to read both books.

As for why he should bring along heavy hard copies of the works in a age when nearly all things are virtually and weightlessly available, Simonyi insisted the books would be more practical, since special permission would be needed to use the computers inside the International Space Station (ISS).

"Books are so much simpler to use today ... A book is a very simple object and everybody understands it," the computer engineer said.

Simonyi will also bring along music, with some 1,600 works, including pieces by Bach, Wagner, Mozart and Hungarian greats Bela Bartok and Franz Liszt, stored on his MP3 player, which he plans to leave onboard the ISS.

And for his pop and rock music needs, he said he had mainly downloaded albums by British groups "that were popular when I was at the age when these things become very sticky", like the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Kinks.

Simonyi, who left Hungary for the United States at the age of 17, made his fortune working for Microsoft in the 1980s, overseeing the creation of the company's ubiquitous Word and Excell applications, before creating his own company, International Software Corporation, in 2002.

He has been training for his foray into space at Star City in Moscow since November, and will be the world's fifth space tourist after American Dennis Tito, South African Mark Shuttleworth, American Gregory Olsen and, most recently, Iranian-American Anousheh Ansari, who landed in the Kazak Steppes last September 29 after spending 11 days in space.

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