Space tourist returns to Earth

US MILLIONAIRE space tourist Charles Simonyi shared a kiss with his wife in the Kazakh steppe after returning safely to Earth yesterday after an unprecedented second tour in orbit.

Simonyi, who made his fortune pioneering Microsoft software, bumped back to Earth at 07.15 GMT with two professional astronauts in the Russian Soyuz capsule, a spokesman for the mission control centre said.

“According to the search group, the space capsule landed in the planned area. All of the cosmonauts are feeling normal,” a mission spokesman said in comments on Russia’s Vesti 24 television.

Travelling back to Earth with Simonyi — the first person to travel into space twice as a tourist — were Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov and US astronaut Michael Fincke.

“Here’s the Earth!” Fincke cried repeatedly in Russian as the ground recovery team arrived, adding to Nasa colleagues on the ground in English: “It’s so nice to see you.”

Still in space suits and wrapped in blue thermal blankets, the crew were shown on live national television smiling and undergoing initial medical examinations from deck chairs set out in the field by the landing site.

Hungarian-born Simonyi, who paid $35m (e28m) for his 10-day space tour, was seen receiving a warm embrace from his 29-year-old Swedish wife, Lisa Persdotter, who travelled by helicopter to the site.


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