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Monday, June 25, 2012

Getting Ready For A Trip Into Space

Justin Dowd at Here & Now studios at WBUR in Boston. (Jesse Costa/Here & Now)

Unlike most 22 year-olds, Justin Dowd has always been confident that one day, he would go to space. He just didn’t think it would be this soon.

A Worcester, Mass. native and a physics and math major at Northeastern University, Dowd is the winner of an international competition dubbed “Race for Space.” His prize is a 90 minute trip aboard a private space plane called an XCOR Lynx in 2014, when he will become one of the world’s first civilian astronauts.

Justin will spend two weeks training for the flight, which takes off from a base on the Dutch-controlled island of Curacao. He will train in a military grade jet and a simulator in the Netherlands in order to become accustomed to the G-forces and weightlessness that he will experience during the flight and in space. The space plane Justin will be traveling in is capable of flying up to 110 km above the earth’s surface, just above the height of 100 km that is generally considered the edge of outer space.

Winning The Trip Through ‘Chalkimation’

Justin’s winning entry in the contest, held earlier this year by Metro World News Magazine in conjunction with the private Dutch company, Space Expedition Corporation, included a video that explains Einstein’s theory of relativity using stop-motion chalk animation, or “chalkimation.”

The video, which also features original music, took a month of steady work in Justin’s parent’s basement and over 3000 unique pictures. If nothing else, he says, remember two things about relativity: “Time is not constant. It changes depending on where you are and how you’re moving, and space is the same way.”

Space Travel Will Only ‘Get Cheaper And Cheaper’

Dowd has always felt sure he’d get a chance to go up to space because as private companies turn their attention to space travel, it’s becoming more feasible for regular people to take a trip for tourism.

“The tourism aspect… is really a stepping stone. There’s only going to be more spaceships built, and [private companies] are going to use the profits to make bases,” he told Here and Now‘s Robin Young“Space travel is going to be very accessible and it’s only going to get cheaper and cheaper.”

Guest:

  • Justin Dowd, Northeastern University

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