Space Needle contest aims to send someone to space
The Space Needle announced a contest to send a person into outer space and within hours, 1,700 people had applied. Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin was on hand to announce the contest to launch with the private company Space Adventures.
Seattle Times staff reporter
When the Space Needle celebrated its 45th anniversary, it gave away a trip to Paris.
But now that it will reach the half-century mark next spring, the reach of the iconic Seattle landmark stretches much, much farther. All the way into outer space.
It is sponsoring a contest to send the winner into orbit on a private rocket ship.
"We wanted to do something amazing," said Ron Sevart, president and CEO of the Space Needle. "This was why the Space Needle was built, the dawn of the Space Age. As the space-shuttle program winds down, what's next is the capability of the average citizen to enjoy space travel."
The contest began Monday and, by noon, more than 1,700 people had entered. Sevart said he is expecting millions of entries, but only one entry per person is allowed. Entrants must be 18 and live in the U.S.
A computer will randomly select 1,000 finalists who will be asked to submit a one-minute video. After the video, the contestants will be narrowed down to 40 and their videos will be put online for a public vote.
The top 20 will face a fitness challenge and the winner will be announced in April.
The Space Needle kicked off the contest, Space Race 2010, at a Monday event at the Needle, featuring astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon.
"It's fitting that this structure, the symbol for the 1962 World's Fair, was put together by private individuals," said Aldrin, adding that it's appropriate for the Space Needle to sponsor the contest "because Seattle is the home of Boeing, the number one airplane maker in the world."
He said he's excited that, as the shuttle program shuts down, ordinary people can be put into suborbital flight. "There's no other thrill than to be in space and circle the Earth," he said, adding that he hopes by 2035 the U.S. will be capable of establishing a permanent station on Mars.
The space travel will be coordinated by Eric Anderson, chairman of Space Adventures, a Virginia-based private space-travel agency.
He said only 500 people have gone to space and he hopes to increase that to 10 times the number as the window opens for private space exploration.
His company has been offering space flights for a decade and so far has sent eight people to the international space station, traveling 36 million miles.
The winning trip will provide about six minutes of zero gravity nearly 62 miles into space. The trip will take about a half-hour, Anderson said, and will cost about $110,000.
His company is working with another to build the rocket, which can carry two people without a pilot.
Anderson said he always wanted to be an astronaut, but because he had bad vision could never work for NASA. Instead he created Space Adventures. "If you want to go to space in your lifetime, you can do it," he said.
He said the rocket should be available for the contest in about two years and he doesn't know where it would launch, but could possibly in Washington state.
Also at Monday's event was Richard Garriott, the son of an astronaut and one of a few private citizens who have spent time at the international space station. Garriott also was cut out of the astronaut program because of his vision.
In fact, he said, when he went to outer space he was the first person in space who had had laser surgery and was studied by NASA to see how it affected his eyesight; no problems were found. Now, he said, NASA allows astronaut candidates who have had laser surgery.
Garriott flew in space in 2008 and hopes to go into space again. "It truly was life-changing," he said. "An event like no other."
Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or email@example.com
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