Mark Shuttleworth — Spreading humanity through Ubuntu Linux

Mark Shuttleworth is a South African entrepreneur who was the second self-funded space tourist and first African in space. He is now best known as founder of Canonical Ltd. and for his leadership of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, an enterprise Linux distribution that is freely available worldwide and has both cutting-edge desktop and enterprise server editions, and has become very popular. He currently lives in London and holds dual citizenship of South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Mark was born in the town of Welkom in South Africa, and grew up in Cape Town. While studying towards a Business Science degree in Finance and Information Systems at the University of Cape Town (UCT) he first encountered the Internet, and quickly became intrigued by the changes it would bring in business and society.

In 1995, his final year at UCT, Mark founded Thawte, as an Internet consulting business. The main focus of the company was Internet security for electronic commerce. Thawte is the first company to produce a full-security encrypted e-commerce web server that was commercially available outside the United States. This brought Thawte to the world of public key infrastructure, which is the basis for all encrypted and authenticated Internet transactions. Thawte was recognized by both Netscape and Microsoft as a trusted third party for web site certification, and it quickly established a leadership position helping businesses around the world accept secure transactions over the web. By 1999, when it was acquired by VeriSign, Thawte was fastest-growing internet certificate authority worldwide, and was the leading certificate authority outside of the USA.

In April 2002 Mark realized a lifelong dream to fly in space. Shuttleworth gained worldwide fame on 25 April 2002 as a spaceflight participant aboard the Russian Soyuz TM-34 mission, paying approximately US$ 20 million. Two days later, the Soyuz spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station, where he spent eight days participating in experiments related to AIDS and genome research. On 5 May 2002, he returned to Earth. In order to participate on the flight, Shuttleworth had to undergo one year of training and preparation, including seven months spent in Star City, Russia.

While in space he had a radio conversation with Nelson Mandela and a 14 year old South African girl, Michelle Foster, who asked him to marry her. He politely dodged the question, stating that he was “very honored at the question” before moving the conversation on. The terminally ill Miss Foster’s conversation was enabled by the Reach for a Dream foundation.

He spent a year working on the project, including seven months of formal training at Star City in Russia, and almost as much time in medical testing, science program development and negotiations. The First African in Space project was without doubt the most challenging and exciting project any geek could wish for. Continue reading →