Want to Go to Space? Astronauts Launch Contest

A new astronaut-led group has launched a contest to redefine the "right stuff" by giving away trips to space in return for the impact those who go can make to the world.

Spaceship Earth Grants, presented by Star Harbor Space Training Academy, will award one ticket onboard a privately operated suborbital spacecraft for every 50,000 applications it receives through the end of the year. As the number of applicants increases, SEG will raise the rate at which spaceflights are awarded (to as high as one in 25,000).

The effort is led by former NASA astronauts Leland Melvin and Ron Garan. To apply to fly to space, visit

Entrants must submit a short written summary and record a 90-second video telling how they would use their flight to "better yourself, your community, your country, and/or our planet" and how they would use their "unique set of skills and resources to share your story with the world."

The public will then vote for their favorite applicants from around the globe, identifying 1,000 finalists to be judged by the SEG Council of aerospace industry experts, former astronauts, space enthusiasts, educators and artists. Public voting will begin Jan. 5, 2015, and run through Feb. 28. The 1,000 finalists will be confirmed on March 20, and winners will be announced on April 12.

In addition to the essay and video, entrants must pay a one-time application fee of $15 to $90, depending on the relative wealth of the applicant's home nation.

Image: Leland Melvin
Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, shown here reading a story to a kindergarten class in 2008, is the president of Spaceship Earth Grants. Sean Smith / NASA file

Recipients of Spaceship Earth Grants will be able to choose from several spaceflight providers and will receive training at the Star Harbor Space Training Academy. Among the companies developing suborbital craft are Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace and WorldView.

SEG is not the only contest or crowdfunding effort to offer trips to space. Land Rover recently announced a contest with Virgin Galactic aimed at adventurous individuals and the Mars One Foundation is giving away a spaceflight on XCOR's Lynx rocket-powered space plane to underwrite its plans for an Earth-based simulation of a future settlement on the Red Planet.

— Robert Z. Pearlman, CollectSpace

This is a condensed version of a report from Click through to to read the full report and watch a video introduction to Spaceship Earth Grants. Follow on Facebook and on Twitter at @CollectSpace. Copyright 2014