Lottery players don't want the moon and the stars — just the money, Florida officials decided as they rejected a proposal to offer spaceflight as a big prize.
The idea of winning a ride on a Soyuz spacecraft to the international space station just didn't appeal to lottery players, Bob Nave, chief of staff of the Florida Lottery, said Friday. "It was an intriguing enough concept to present to our focus groups ... but people like to win cash."
The space lottery idea had been championed by Space Adventures, an Arlington, Va.-based company that has a contract with the Russian space agency for two seats on a Soyuz.
The company's president and CEO Eric Anderson; adviser Norm Thagard, a former astronaut; and Winston Scott, executive director of the Florida Space Authority met last summer with Lottery Secretary Rebecca Mattingly and discussed such ideas.
Other proposals were a suborbital spacecraft ride costing about $100,000 and an aircraft ride that achieves zero-gravity and costs $5,000 to $15,000, Anderson said.
Mattingly wasn't in her office on Friday, but she earlier expressed skepticism in an e-mail sent to Anderson. "No jurisdiction has ever launched a successful online game offering prizes other than cash," she wrote in the Oct. 2 e-mail.
Gov. Jeb Bush called the idea interesting but outside of the lottery's mission. "For the lottery to be successful, I think they need to stay focused on the fundamentals," he said Friday in Orlando.
Thagard said the lottery would make spaceflight more accessible to people who don't have the $20 million that American Dennis Tito and South African Mark Shuttleworth each paid for their trips to the station on the Soyuz.
"Space tourism already exists, but it's just not in the reach of most folks," said Thagard, an associate dean at Florida State's College of Engineering. "This would certainly bring it down a notch in terms of access."
Scott said earlier this week that big ideas were needed to generate interest in space and eventually make commercial space travel a reality. Plus, he said, it could contribute more money to the lottery, which funds education in Florida.
Scott said he was pleasantly surprised that Mattingly didn't immediately reject the idea.
"It was quite an open-minded reaction," Scott said. "She wanted more data. She wanted her people to conduct their own surveys and data."