Desmond File

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Space Madness: Charles Simonyi Edition

As a guest columnist filling in for Doug Barney in Monday's edition of the Redmond Report newsletter, I opined on reports of former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi's $20 million-plus orbital joyride on a Russian Soyuz rocket.

Since Monday, the man behind Excel, Word and, later, Microsoft Office has been kickin' it with astronauts on the International Space Station. In addition to helping perform sundry experiments on the station, Simonyi also showed up at the ISS door with a gift from Martha Stewart -- a gourmet dinner of quail, duck breast, chicken parmentier and rice pudding that was specifically prepared for microgravity.

One thing is certain. The ante for enriched ex-Microsofties has officially been upped. By about 220 miles. And it looks like Bill Gates may be taking the orbital bait, if the second-hand account from Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin is to be believed. You can read about it here.

Closer to home, NASA recently announced a program called CosmosCode, an open source project designed to bring together developers to work on software for future manned space missions. The idea is simple: Catch the kind of lightning in a bottle that helped charge popular software like Linux, Apache Web server, OpenOffice and Firefox.

You can find more information about CosmosCode at the NASA CoLab Web site here.

It's an intriguing concept, and one that brings up an interesting question. Would you want your space shuttle flight software provided by a distributed, open source project? More to the point, is there any software that shouldn't be developed under open source? Write me at

Posted by Michael Desmond on 04/11/2007 at 1:15 PM

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