By Kylie Roman
14 days in space. 5.5 million miles traveled. 214 sunrises.
That's the experience entrepreneur Charles Simonyi shared with an Ohio University audience Wednesday during his campus visit for the Frontiers in Science Lecture Series.
Simonyi's trip to the International Space Station in April 2007 made him the fifth space tourist and second Hungarian in space. Through a lecture, photographs and interaction with students and others after his talk, Simonyi shared a step-by-step account of his experience, including eight months of intensive training, his actual time in space and the transition of returning to Earth.
Orbital space flight had been Simonyi's lifelong dream. His fascination began at a very young age when, at 13, he was chosen as Hungary's junior astronaut, for which he won a trip to Moscow and met one of the first cosmonauts, Pavel Popovich.
That early experience motivated his support for the space program, a desire to learn new things and his goal of popularizing science, especially for kids.
Simonyi's trip resulted from an arrangement between Russia's Federal Space Agency and the Virginia-based firm Space Adventures, which arranges ventures to the space station for paying customers. His intensive training in Star City, near Moscow, included Russian language training, physical training and theory.
"I went for the full experience because there was no guarantee that I would fly; so I made the most of it," he said.
Prior to takeoff, he said, the astronauts partake in a number of interesting traditions, including watching certain movies, saluting friends and signing doors. "I think it is a way of calming the nerves," Simonyi said. "It sends the message that we have time for these traditions."
Kaylyn Bredon and Jenna Weller, seniors in the College of Business, had the chance to go to Hungary last summer as part of the Simonyi Summer Consulting Program. The two, who earned scholarships from the Charles Simonyi Foundation, met with Simonyi Wednesday morning to discuss business issues.
"It was a really interesting topic," Bredon said after Simonyi's talk. "It was great to see the business aspect this morning and the space aspect this afternoon."
Weller was impressed by Simonyi's determination to achieve his dream.
"He is an amazing, humble and down-to-earth man," she said. "He has really inspired me that if nothing else, just do what you really want to do."
During a Q&A that followed Simonyi's lecture, a young audience member asked, "What advice can you give to a kid like me that wants to go to space someday?"
Simonyi replied, "Study, study, study. Do all of your homework -- and then do some extra."
Alumna and former university trustee Jeanette Grasselli Brown, who with her husband, Glenn R. Brown, created the Frontiers in Science Lecture Series and attended Wednesday's lecture, explained her motivation: "I wanted to bring scientists, like Simonyi, to the university to be able to talk about relevant topics in a way that is understandable for the general public."