May 9, 2012
Space Race 2012 Contest Winner Announced By Buzz Aldrin
A 27-year-old University of Arizona law student won the "Space Race 2012" contest today, earning him a free ride to space.
Gregory Schneider accepted his prize during a Seattle Space Needle ceremony on Wednesday from 82-year-old Buzz Aldrin, who was one of the first men to walk on the moon.
The contest, sponsored by the Space Needle and private spaceflight company Space Adventures, opened on August 1, 2011, attracting over 50,000 entrants from all across the U.S.
The five finalists met in Seattle on Monday to begin a series of secret challenges, including an indoor skydiving competition.
Two of the contestants were eliminated after the first event, leading the other finalists to compete in building a type of solar panel.
For the last struggle to find the victor, the finalist had to climb their way up a ladder to the top of the Space Needle's antenna and set off a horn.
Aldrin joked about the performances of the two finalists during the ceremony, saying, "You wouldn't catch me walking around that Space Needle. I'm afraid of heights."
Schneider received a free suborbital space flight, which is about 62 miles above the surface of the Earth, aboard the Armadillo spacecraft.
The spacecraft, for which tickets to sub-orbital space cost $110,000 per seat, is still not ready for flight, so the launch date has not been officially set.
"The more people we can get to see the world from a different perspective, the closer we can all come," Schneider said during his acceptance speech.
Before Aldrin was about to announce the winner of the contest, he said: "July 20, 1969, changed my life forever," referring to the date of the Apollo 11 moon landing. "Maybe it's not as great as that, but the life of one of these two people is going to be changed when I open up this envelope."
Schneider said it has been his dream to fly in space, but the main reason for entering the contest was that he "thought of it as an opportunity to inspire" his kids.
Commercial space flights are expected to start taking place in 2013 by Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane.