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Gates-in-space report a fabrication?

By Paul McNamara on Tue, 04/24/07 - 6:56am.

Space tourist Charles Simonyi says it was all a Russian media fabrication.

Ah, yes, if there's anything easier than blaming the media ... it's blaming the Russian media.

We'll see how that holds up.

Simonyi, a genuine FOB (Friend of Bill; that's Gates, not Clinton), tells the Seattle Times in this interview that there was less than nothing to a worldwide whirlwind of stories two weeks ago that cited him as telling a fellow cosmonaut that the world's richest man was aching for an out-of-this-world vacation.

From the Seattle Times question-and-answer session after Simonyi's Saturday return to Earth:

Q: Another rumor floating around was that your friend Bill Gates is interested in taking the same trip.

A: That's typical. The Russian press is notorious for their fabrications.

No follow-up was offered by the newspaper.

If you do not recall, this is how the Gates-in-space report took flight.

"Charles (Simonyi) said that Bill Gates is also preparing to visit space," cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin told journalists during a video link-up from the space station, broadcast on state television Rossiya. "So the next time someone will be with Bill Gates. For me this is the biggest surprise of our flight."

Hmmm. Seems as though if anyone was doing the fabricating here it would have to have been Fydor Yurchikhin, no?

Microsoft has been remarkably tight-lipped about the original Gates-in-space kerfuffle, going so far so to literally ignore my increasingly pathetic pleadings for comment.

So you will need to excuse me if I take Simonyi's "fabrication" allegation with just a tiny grain of salt (as you should my cloak-and-dagger imagery, of course). Two weeks is quite a bit of time to let lapse between a sensational news report of this nature and a denial - even taking into account that Simonyi probably wasn't carrying his cell phone up there.

My pitch to the Microsoft public relations gatekeepers all along has been that sooner or later a reporter will corner Gates and ask him directly: Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Civilians in Space Society? Now that Simonyi has established the "fabrication" foundation, I would imagine that Gates can and will laugh off the entire episode.

But I still want to hear an answer from the man himself. Don't you?

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