Photos by Steve Shay
Charles and Lisa Simonyi were celebrated today for the Museum of Flight's Space Gallery, named in Charles' honor. A key developer of Microsoft Word & Excel, he donated $3 million to the gallery. He also visited the Intl. Space Station twice on the Soyuz, and purchased one the capsules that he will loan to the Museum. He also will loan his space suit and a working toilet from the craft. He told the West Seattle Herald he looks forward to introducing school kids to the future of flight in the gallery, which will also house the space shuttle simulator in late spring. CLICK THE PHOTO ABOVE TO SEE MORE.

SLIDESHOW: Bill Nye, Bill Gates, Sr., Richard Garriott join Charles Simonyi for Museum of Flight dedication

Charles Simonyi Space Gallery dedicated today at Museum of Flight, Simonyi will loan Soyuz capsule


Charles Simonyi was honored today at the Seattle Museum of Flight. The museum gallery's name was unveiled, the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery. Hungarian-born Simonyi was a key architect of Microsoft Word and Excel, and founder of Intentional Software who flew twice as a "space tourist" to the International Space Station on the Russian Soyuz. He spent a total of 30 days in space. He donated $3 million to the gallery.

The gallery will receive the Space Shuttle mockup simulator in late spring, early summer. We ran a recent article about the Space Shuttle simulator here. This event was timed to overlap with tomorrow's "Future Forum hosted by the museum and NASA.

The Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences is a $75 million foundation he established in 2003 and has benefitted the Seattle Symphony, Public Library, in addition to the Museum of Flight.

Museum Chairman of the Board Michael Hallman

In opening remarks outside the gallery, Museum Chairman of the Board Michael Hallman said, "People have been looking up in the sky and thinking about going to the stars for literally thousands of years. How incredible is it that we get to live in the year when it's really starting to happen and we get to say to young people not just, 'Wouldn't it be great to go there', but 'You could go there'. We have three people who have gone there with us here. Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, five-time shuttle astronaut, and Richard Garriott (in addition to Simonyi). All three of our space travelers are deeply committed to the idea that we need to help the public to understand what has been accomplished."

Charles Simonyi

"The naming of the space gallery is a great honor for me and for my family," Simonyi said. "I have the highest regard for the Museum of Flight. It is really a world class institution… Today I am officially announcing we have acquired and are giving to the Museum of Flight for a long term loan the Soyuz CMA-13 space craft capsule. This capsule took me and my crew mates back to Earth from the space station, landing on the prairie in Kazakhstan. I will also be loaning my space suit, and more impotently, a working space toilet."

The audience chuckled.

"I can hardly wait for the time our baby girl will be the age I can bring her here to show her how cozy the capsule is. My wife (Lisa) and I discussed the purchase of this spacecraft. We agreed this purchase will constitute her present to me for my birthday this year, anniversary, and birthday next year."

Inside the gallery Simonyi told the West Seattle Herald, "I can't imagine a better Saturday or Sunday afternoon spent here at the Museum of Flight, especially when the new space wing will be open to see how people have visited space and to see how the future will be. Especially for kids space is such a magic place where things float and you go there on a column of fire."

Astronaut Dr. Bonnie Dunbar

"I think it's a wonderful achievement, a real symbol of partnership and forward thinking and I'm just delighted," Dr. Dunbar told the West Seattle Herald of the gallery's future. "I'm optimistic for the international future of space. And I am hopeful that the United States will continue its leadership in that realm. There is a fact of history and that is people go forward. We inquire. We explore. We want to know the answers. Space is just the next dimension. We've been there 50 years and we're not going to stop. Hopefully this will inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists in this country to enable the dreams we all have."

Bill Gates, Sr.

"I'm a friend of Charles and I am interested in what he is doing here so I came down to see," said Bill Gates, Sr. "This museum is significant, absolutely. I am not knowledgable about space travel. It's all brand new."

Bill Nye

Bill Nye will participate in panel discussions tomorrow. "I am now the CEO of the Planetary Society, the world's largest non-governmental space society," he said. "We're going to have Planetfest 2012 when the Curiosity Rover lands on Mars and we want to have a simultaneous event at the Museum of Flight. It will also be Paris, Holland, London, New York, Washington D.C., Huntsville, Alabama, and Pasadena, just to start."

Richard Garroitt

Richard Garriott is the son of scientist Owen K. Garriott, an astronaut who flew with Skylab 3 and Space Shuttle mission STS-9.

"I actually launched on the TMA-13 Soyuz, the vehicle you will have here in the museum, the same one Charles returned to the Earth in," said Garriott. "I'm from Austin, Texas. I just got married. My wife lives in New York. And I do business in Seattle. So it is a lot of back and forth. How I funded my own journey into space is computer games. I am one of the first developers of computer games. I am one of the largest shareholders of Space Adventures (the space tourism company)." His advise to others? "Have a dream and pursue it doggedly," he said.

Museum admission half-off Saturday

This Saturday, Dec. 10, all visitors who bring in a non-perishable food item will receive half off Museum admission. Donations support Northwest Harvest.

We encourage our readers to comment. No registration is required. We ask that you keep your comments free of profanity and keep them civil. They are moderated and objectionable comments will be removed.