Science & Technology

Space for Humanity sends out a global call for citizen astronauts with a cause

RENTON, Wash. — Space for Humanity is looking for more than a few good astronauts.

The Colorado-based nonprofit group today opened up an online application process for expense-paid trips to the edge of space, with the goal of giving citizen astronauts a sense of planetary perspective known as the Overview Effect.

This is actually Space for Humanity’s second solicitation, following up on an initial call that went out two years ago. Like that earlier campaign, today’s follow-up was unveiled in conjunction with the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace conference.

The objective of the campaign is to raise global awareness about the Overview Effect — a feeling of spiritual connectedness that has often been experienced by astronauts looking down at the planet below.

Space for Humanity says as many as 10,000 candidates could be selected for the project, with the expectation that those who travel to the high frontier will serve as ambassadors for the Overview Effect once they come back down to Earth.

Applicants should be at least 18 years old and able to speak English. They should also have a social impact venture in mind to pursue after their space experience.

Executive director Rachel Lyons pointed to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which address 17 global issues ranging from poverty and hunger to gender equality and climate action. “Each of our astronauts will create a program around one of these goals,” she said.

Lyons said her organization has been in contact with Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, which are developing suborbital spaceships for commercial voyages; and with World View Enterprises, which envisions sending passengers into the stratosphere inside a pressurized, balloon-borne gondola.

Space for Humanity hasn’t struck firm deals with those companies yet, but if the technical and financial issues can be worked out, Lyons said the first citizen astronauts could go up in the 2021 time frame. The idea is that the cost of the trips would be covered through contributions and sponsorships.

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