Stewart's pal Charles Simonyi blasted off on Saturday for the international space station

By Brian Orloff
April 07, 2007 08:35 AM

Why is Martha Stewart in Baikonur, Kazakhstan? Hint: It isn’t to get recipes or decorating ideas.

Stewart, 65, traveled to the Central Asian nation on Friday to support her best friend Charles Simonyi, 58, who blasted off into space on Saturday, the Associated Press reports.

Simonyi, a software engineer and developer of Microsoft Word, paid $20-25 million to take a 13-day trip to the international space station. He lifted off in a Soyuz space capsule along with two Russian cosmonauts at 11:31 p.m. local time.

Stewart and Simonyi have been close friends for years, and he has supported her through her legal troubles. In March 2005, he told PEOPLE of Stewart’s time at Alderson Federal Prison Camp: “She went through a difficult experience with dignity.”

Now it’s Stewart’s turn to support her friend. According to the AP, she planned the gourmet meal he will share with his comrades in space on April 12 – Cosmonauts’ Day, a Russian holiday.

On the menu: quail roasted in Madiran wine, duck breast confit with capers and semolina cake with dried apricots, among other delicacies. The food was prepared by chef Alain Ducasse’s training center, ADF, according to Space Adventures, the company that arranged Simonyi’s trip.

On Friday, the pals shared a private moment separated by a plate glass window to protect Simonyi and his crewmates from germs. “He’s in excellent spirits,” Stewart told the AP. “He’s very fit and very well-trained.”

Simonyi will document his experiences on a blog which he hopes will inspire others, especially children, to get interested in space exploration. He will also conduct experiments at the space station, measuring radiation levels and study biological organisms in a lab.

The Hungary-born Simonyi, who now runs his own software company, said at a news conference that his friend Bill Gates was “very happy that I am doing this.” Most of all, he said, “There is an element of hope. We don’t quite know what we are going to find, but we have to go and see and find it.”

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