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World Briefing / Kazakhstan

U.S. billionaire back in space

March 27, 2009|Times Wire Reports

A Russian capsule blasted off with a deafening roar, carrying U.S. billionaire Charles Simonyi into space for his second cosmic cruise.

Ice shards broke away as the Soyuz rocket with a Russian-American crew lifted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in northern Kazakhstan.

Simonyi, a 60-year-old software designer who paid $35 million for the trip, showed the thumbs-up sign to capsule TV cameras as his 28-year-old wife, Swedish socialite Lisa Persdotter, cried with worry.

"I'm very, very happy. [The launch] was very, very smooth," Persdotter said as the rocket, a bright dot in the sky, gradually faded from view. "But I'm very emotional."

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and American astronaut Michael Barratt also were aboard.

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