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Jeff Bezos went to space in 2021? A Microsoft employee did it in 2007.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 (Image credit: Microsoft)

You've likely heard about Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson going head-to-head to see who could tickle the very edge of Earth's atmosphere first. But have you heard about the Microsoft employee who traveled to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2007 and 2009? Space tourism's been around for a while, and when it comes to actually penetrating that big black void up there, Bezos and Branson have yet to come close to what Charles Simonyi achieved almost a decade and a half ago.

Simonyi is the guy who brought us Microsoft Office. He built the first versions of it, meaning that every time you whip up a Word doc or battle for esport supremacy in Excel, you have him to thank. He's also a noteworthy space tourist who's traveled to the ISS not once, but twice.

He did so with the help of space tourism company Space Adventures, Inc. He was not only a space tourist, which is what all the Bezos and Branson fuss is about, but he went farther than them for longer than them, almost a decade and a half before them. We should all be recognizing Simonyi and writing odes to him in Word docs right now instead of producing endless pieces on Bezos, the man with enough rice to his name to end world hunger.

One could argue that Bezos' big accomplishment here is that he's not simply creating tourism as a fun little extension of existing government-driven space operations, but instead creating a company dedicated to normalizing space tourism exclusively in the private sector. As Redditor /u/DICKTracey put it: "I beg to differ in terms of accomplishment. Sure [Simonyi] was up there for longer, but this guy paid to go. Branson and Bezos built companies to send them to space. It's like saying buying a plane ticket is more about flight than creating a company to build aeroplanes."

There is another point of view, found in /u/DrakkoZW's succinct reply to that comment: "That sounds like paying for a flight but with extra steps[.]"

The big picture

Jeff Bezos

Source: Amazon (Image credit: Source: Amazon)

In some sense, Bezos sort-of, kind-of going to space (or closer thereto than most people ever will, for what that's worth) is less about the actual event and more about what it signifies. The gazillionaire's trip was a ceremonial cutting of the ribbon. It was to celebrate an accomplishment in the background, rather than be an accomplishment in its own right.

Even so, many people are cheering about the event, and so is Bezos himself. "I want to thank every Amazon employee, and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this," the Amazon founder said, extending gratitude to all the Amazon warehouse workers who are permanently crippling their bodies lifting heavy materials day in, day out so that their boss can rocket around Earth's atmosphere.

Just remember that when space tourism does eventually go mainstream, neither Bezos nor Branson will have credit for being the true pioneers. They were beaten to the punch by a lot of other people, including the guy who cooked up MS Office.

Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to robert.carnevale@futurenet.com.

19 Comments
  • Tell me you're jealous of Bezos without telling me you're jealous of Bezos
  • So MS basically did it way first ...and nobody cared so MS drops it. Then years later, somebody else does it, ups the game a bit, and then wins all the spoils. Where have I heard that story before? Sounds familiar.
  • Amazon workers are permanently crippled?
  • ".... extending gratitude to all the Amazon warehouse workers who are permanently crippling their bodies lifting heavy materials day in, day out..." Can the writer come up with a fact-based link as backup to this claim? If not c'mon man, please avoid this stuff. OK?
  • Click the link in this article where it mentions warehouse workers, it leads to the story with those fact-based links. Ta-da. No hyperbole.
  • Worked the warehouse during the holiday season for extra cash. It's work, great pay for what you do. People now days have forgotten how to work. Someone who grew up with work ethics would laugh at how easy working for Amazon really is. And all you need is a third grade education if that. I've worked much harder jobs for less pay growing up. We should be thankful there are thousands of jobs created by this business. And they have two day delivery, lol.
  • people who don't want to do manual labor for all day then complain
    or people who have physical constraints then try to do manual labor all day and get injured and then complain
  • Bezos/Branson replicated Alan Shepard.
    Inspiration 4 is going to replicate John Glenn later this year.
    Dear Moon will replicate Apollo 8 in two years, give or take.
    HLS will replicate Apollo 11 in three-five years.
    None are breakthroughs. The real breakthrough will come after that.
    Not private weekend jaunts to the edge of space or orbit or the moon.
    The real breakthroughs will be private space stations for research and manufacturing, cleaning up space junk, maybe solar power satellites, a lunar space station, telescopes at the Lagrangians, permanent lunar habitats, and maybe, maybe Mars. Anything that reminds folks that space is important is good but endlessly rehashing the exploits of tbe past isn't enough.
    It's time to do what none have done before.
    Go where none have gone.
    Because somewhere out there is an asteroid headed our way or a power hungry fool willing to end it all.
    Time is running out.
  • I was thinking that returning to earth in a pod with parachutes is just a passing phase. They will be able to jettison back in the main aircraft itself, in a few years. I bet that is the intent, they are just not there yet
  • Blue Origin?
    They don't have an airplane; just the capsule.
    It is Virgin Galactic that flIes a space plane.
    Both are stuck at reliving the past (60 years past!) instead of moving forward. The proper reaction should be "meh". The companies that should be lauded are AD ASTRA ROCKET, AXIOM, RELATIVITY SPACE, ROCKET LAB, SIERRA NEVADA, SPACEX, and a dozen more. (Look them up.) They are quietly building the orbital infrastructure of the future: economically viable, *productive* use of space, not joyrides for folks with a quarter million to burn. Blue Origin by contrast has spent 20 years burning Bezos money at a billion dollars a year and that 11 minute joyride is all they have to show for it. Well, that and lawsuits to hamper their betters and federal government handouts. Not an irganization worthy of celebration.
  • Good to learn that there was a Microsoft employee who was able to buy a trip to the space station a decade ago. But your hate speech against billionaires, just because you are a popper, is so absurd. Curb that soon or you will one day become just like those terrorists who hate others who have done better than themselves, just because they did better.
  • Not sure why literally every tech journalist has to write salty pieces about Bezos and attacking Amazon, but it's old af already.
  • And Branson did it before Bezos...why a concern about it being Bezos?
  • Maybe because Bezos is trying to kill the ARTEMIS moon program?
    Look it up.
  • And the people that work at the ISS went there even earlier, still not a story.
  • This is by far the most idiotic fanboy article I have ever read on a technology site.
  • You don't "get out much" do you? 😏😛
    Gaming sites, Linux sites, Mac sites all regularly go way beyond this.
    No reason why an MS focused site can't play the clickbait game, too. 😁 (Right now the yellow rag site of the tech world has a piece bemoaning *all* billionaire-funded space efforts. Instead of showing off their wealth by funding stuff the IdiotPoliticians™ have blocked for 50 years, they should be buying sports teams, giant yachts, and private brothel islands like the other guys. 😱) Shrug it off.
    Not every piece has to be meanginful. As long as they don't start getting political and hollywood-obsessed the place is still worth checking out once a day.
  • The sites that I follow do not “regularly go way beyond this”. So respectfully I disagree.
  • They can write any nonsense. Those serious people who have been visiting this space for a long time do not necessarily need to keep coming back for this garbage. One good option I can think of is to uninstall their app.