The best prize in the galaxy? €78k tourist trip to space
At prices ranging from a hefty €78,000 ($110,000) to €141,000,00 ($200,000) a ticket, the world's first tourist trip into space was only ever going to be affordable for the rich and famous.
But a company in the United States is offering what could arguably be the best competition prize in the galaxy – a free place on one of the world's first tourist ships into space.
In something more reminiscent of a science-fiction novel than reality, the winner will be blasted into space in a purpose-built conical vessel. The craft will then travel for 30 minutes upward (62 miles) to the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space. At this point the two passengers will be able to unstrap themselves to experience six minutes of zero-gravity. Portholes in the tip of the ship will give them both 1500-mile views in either direction of the Earth's surface.
The online competition was launched yesterday by the Space Needle, an hourglass-shaped landmark in Seattle, to celebrate its 50th anniversary as well celebrating the evolution of space travel to the private industry.
The landmark will be running the competition in conjunction with a company called Space Adventures, who are currently competing with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic in sending the first tourists to the outer perimeter of earth's atmosphere.
Celebrities who have already signed up for the tourism space race include Russell Brand, Dallas star Victoria Principal, film director Bryan Singer, designer Philippe Starck, scientist Professor Stephen Hawking, property developers the Candy brothers, and PayPal developer Elon Musk.
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to land on the moon, helped announce the competition last night.
He said: "Private industry is going to gradually assume some of the things that government has been able to do only previously,"
"The ability to continue exploring space is going to be dependent on private citizens engaging in the business of taking people to space."
To enter the competition members of the public must submit their details into an online sweepstake which will run from August 1, 2011 until December 29, 2011.
A thousand names will then be selected at random and entered into a skills-based competition.
The winners of the skills competition will have to produce a one-minute video which will be put to the public vote and the final few candidates will then be reviewed by a panel. The overall winner will be announced in April next year.
Unfortunately, competition entry is only available to "legal residents" of the United States who are over 18 years of age.