Race to Space: We’ve just begun

Justin Dowd, 22, of the North End.
NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO

Justin Dowd, a student at Northeastern University, defeated hundreds of thousands of other Metro readers around the world to win a trip into space in 2014. In the coming weeks Justin will be writing a new popular science column for Metro — and here he recalls a week to remember.

Last September, while riding the train my heart jumped as I stumbled across the Metro Race for Space article.
   
For a better chance of winning I started a project. I drew an animated video using color chalkboards to explain Einstein’s discoveries, called chalkimation.

Seven months and three-thousand pictures later, my brother and I climbed narrow stairs to the roof of our apartment, a Metro photographer in tow. We waited for a call from the global editor to announce the winner. Each second flooded my brain with a fresh splash of adrenaline. The phone rang.

An upbeat voice in my ear said she had good news, I had won a trip to space. My mind went blank, except for the words “YOU WON” flashing in my head like a bright neon sign. I could not think of the past or future, just the intensity of the moment; I felt alive.

People I knew took the news well. One friend screamed before laughing hysterically. My mother instantly began crying. One friend called her retired father, he answered, “Someone better be dead, this is my nap time” after hearing the news he responded, “That little s–.”

A week after nonstop interviews, I cannot picture space better now than before. However, two main ideas are more real to me. First is the honor of truthfully sharing this experience. Second is the dawn of a private space age.

In their youth, my grandparents spent weeks traveling to America. If someone said back then soon they could fly home above the clouds in six hours, few would have believed it. A new private space age is here. The world will become connected in faster and unprecedented ways few among us can believe. The closure of this contest is not the end of opportunities for space flight but the beginning, and progress will take work and collaboration from bold companies like SXC and Metro International.

I feel honored and responsible to share what I experience on this journey truthfully. I do not know what I will learn, but there is only one way to find out.

Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages.
Opposing viewpoints are welcome. Send 100-word submissions to letters@metro.us.


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