Astronaut training awaits Esther Dyson

The tech pundit and investor is girding for six months of training at Russia's Star City, as an understudy to International Space Station-bound Charles Simonyi.

While many in the tech industry have their eyes on the cloud, Ester Dyson has set her sights on the stars.

The longtime tech pundit and investor on Tuesday said she is putting aside most of her day-to-day activities to undergo full-time astronaut training. She'll be a backup to another member of the tech industry, Charles Simonyi, who is set to make a second trip to the International Space Station next spring.

Dyson and Simonyi are indulging their cosmic interests under the auspices of Space Adventures, a company that arranges space flights for private citizens and in which Dyson is an investor. The cost of participating in the backup crew member program is $3 million, according to Space Adventures. (Simonyi reportedly paid about $25 million for his first trip to orbit in April 2007.)

"If, for some reason, he doesn't go (and I can scrounge up some extra cash), I get to go instead!" Dyson wrote on her Flight School blog, where she will chronicle her training, including a less-than-posh stay at Russia's Star City research and training facility. She reckons that her chance of getting into space next spring at about 5 percent.

I'm expecting it to be cold, staying in Star City through a Moscow winter, with a lot of detailed material to learn and exams to pass. Each Soyuz flight has three cosmonauts, and the other two want a colleague they can rely on to do the right thing in an emergency. By all accounts, the food is "stolovaya" (canteen), and the accommodations are spartan.

Dyson says she'll be heading to Russia soon to watch the October 12 launch of Space Adventures' next client to venture into orbit, video game developer Richard Garriott.

The interest in space flight is hardly out of the blue for Dyson, who ran the PC Forum conference for more than two decades. More recently, she launched the Flight School conference for entrepreneurs focused on air and space undertakings. Troubles in that business sector led Dyson to cancel this year's conference; she's aiming to revive it, eventually, she wrote, "but probably not until 2010."

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About the author

Jonathan Skillings is managing editor of CNET News, based in the Boston bureau. He's been with CNET since 2000, after a decade in tech journalism at the IDG News Service, PC Week, and an AS/400 magazine. He's also been a soldier and a schoolteacher, and will always be a die-hard fan of jazz, the brassier the better.

 

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