August 1, 2011

Space Needle Celebrating 50 Years With Trip To Space

Organizers of Seattle's Space Needle say they want to celebrate the iconic symbol's 50th anniversary by sending someone to space.

"We went back to 1962 and questioned why the Space Needle was built," Ron Sevart, President and CEO of the Pacific Northwest landmark, told the Associated Press (AP). "It was an optimistic time, a forward-looking time, right in the middle of the space race."

His team decided to create a multi-tiered contest to send someone into orbit using a company from the burgeoning private space travel industry.

"The private business of taking people to space is right in front of us, it felt so natural for us to build a contest around that," Sevart told the AP.

Buzz Aldrin, the second astronaut to place a foot on the moon, will be attending Space Needle's formal contest announcement on Monday.

Richard Garriott, a private citizen who has spent time on the International Space Station, said the winning trip would be a suborbital shot, with about 6 minutes of zero gravity. 

Space Adventures, a company chaired by Eric Anderson, is developing spacecraft that will be used for space travel for private citizens.  The cost of the grand prize is about $110,000.

"The most impressive takeaway that I had on the International Space Station was seeing Earth from space, it was truly life changing," Garriott, a computer engineer who has invested in private space travel, said in a press release.

The contest will have several stages, with the first being a computer randomly selecting 1,000 people from those who enter to win at the Space Needle's website.

The entries will then be asked to submit a 1-minute video, after which the public will vote to dwindle down the number of contestants.

A panel will make the final selection after a fitness challenge is set-up for the to voted contestants by the public.

The winner will be announced in April 2012, 50 years after Space Needle opened its doors.

Sevart said everyone who submits to the contest must be both "mentally and physically prepared for it."

The Space Needle was built in 1961 at the nation during the midst of the space race. 

"I think that the biggest thing that people take away from this event, is that people's excitement about space should be reinvigorated," Garriott said in a press release. "We're about to enter the barnstorming era of space. It's not just going to be the U.S. or Russian government sending people to space, it's going to be private individuals."


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