Former Microsoft Office Chief Plans Upgrade in Space

This article was originally published on Humorality, on March 26, 2009.

Delivered via Microsoft Shuttle 2009

Former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi blasted into orbit today as part of the latest Russian Soyuz space mission, carrying with him a bundle of important software enhancements for the ailing systems on the International Space Station. During his two-week stay in the weightless environment, Simonyi will install new versions of Microsoft Office on the station’s three Dell computers.

“I’m kind of surprised that Microsoft asked me to go again,” said Simonyi at a pre-launch press conference, “since I haven’t worked at the company since 2002.” Microsoft responded the next day with a prepared statement: “Because the space station will be upgrading from Office 97 to Office 2000, and since Mr. Simonyi managed many of the older releases of Microsoft Office, he is uniquely qualified to assist in this upgrade.”

This is Mr. Simonyi’s second trip to the ISS, the first occurring two years earlier, in April 2007. That voyage was prompted by rumors of pirated copies of Windows at the station. Microsoft takes instances of software piracy seriously, and felt that it needed someone onsite to combat the illegal install. There was also a concern that the compromised systems were the source of the cascading failures recently experienced across multiple ship-wide systems, including the space toilets.

Additional research found that each computer did possess a valid copy of the operating system. The station’s failures stemmed instead from the inability of the astronauts to figure out the Windows Vista operating system. To resolve the issue, President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package included $27 million for a full downgrade of each workstation to Windows XP.

As part of his on-board duties, Simonyi will also help the crew install wireless networking equipment. This will allow the station to remove the cables currently connecting it to a nearby orbiting communications satellite.

Tim Patrick

Tim Patrick is an author, software developer, and the host of Japan Everyday. He has published a dozen books and hundreds of articles covering technology, current events, and life in Japan. Find his latest books at

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