Justin Dowd from Worcester, Massachusetts, has won the Race for Space, the global competition to select one Metro reader to travel into space.
Dowd, 22, beat thousands of candidates from across the globe to win a the coveted once-in-a-lifetime ticket on board XCOR Lynx, the first generation rocket-powered spaceplane currently being built by leading spaceflight company SXC (Space Expedition Curaçao).
Dowd has both the mental and physical smarts needed to be a perfect astronaut. Dowd, a physics and maths undergraduate at Boston’s Northeastern University, wowed the judging panel with his stunning chalkboard stop motion video on Einstein's theory of relativity. Meanwhile, Dowd has been training for a grueling 12-mile (19-km) endurance obstacle course race.
"My motivation for him is that he really provides an amazing package in the combined qualities of scientific background, artistic qualities, dedication and the gift to tell a fascinating story," Harry Van Hulten, test pilot with SXC and global jury member that selected Dowd.
"He is absolutely unique. He taught me things in his video that I didn't understand as well as I do now. He really blew me away with that. I can't think of any better ambassador to tell the story about this space trip than him."
Dowd will receive astronaut training ahead of the trip scheduled for 2014. The ‘civilian astronaut’ will be able to chronicle his preparations and space flight itself in a series of reports published in Metro across the globe.
In reacting to the news, Dowd told Metro, “I’m the luckiest guy in the world and for about 20 minutes, I’ll be the luckiest guy in outer space!”
Dowd added that it’s “an absolute honor” to be the part of the world’s first space mission to be launched by a newspaper. “To say this is a once-in-a-lifetime event is an understatement. This is the first time ever this sort of mission is happening and I am elated to be a part of history.”
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60 seconds with Justin Dowd
What inner qualities do you think will help you be a great astronaut for the mission?
When I was in school, my friends called me a nerd in a jock's body. So, I was always interested in physics – to expand my knowledge of the world – but I am big into sports and exercise. I think these two things will help me be a good astronaut.
What are you looking forward to most about the mission?
Those few precious moments of weightlessness during the flight, watching the curvature of Earth, and experiencing the force of going Mach 3.
How does this news compare to your greatest passion in life?
I’m a massive fan of [American football team] New England Patriots. My fellow fans would absolutely hate me for saying this, but all the times the Patriots won the Super Bowl in recent years does not compare at all to this great news of mine!
How does your mom feel about you going to outer space?
[Laughs] Well, she is both happy and nervous about my trip!