Citizens of Earth: for as little as $15 you can apply to fly in a rocket ship of your choice. How? It’s all thanks to your money, and an inspired program from the people you are giving the money to–Spaceship Earth Grants (SEG). From the middle of last September, until the end of this year (Dec 31, 2014), you can fill out a form and pay for the chance to ride into space. The payment price goes as high as $90, but when you consider the lowest ticket to ride, offered by XCOR Aerospace, will eventually be $95,000, you might consider that a bargain. But XCOR might not be the company you choose for your rocket flight. Remember, you get to choose which rocket company’s rocket you wish to fly out into space.
There are other, more expensive options than XCOR. Virgin Galactic comes immediately to mind. But the thing to remember is that none of the passenger rocket companies are operating commercially yet, and only Virgin Galactic seems to be testing an actual piloted commercial space vehicle right now. That will change next year, hopefully. Perhaps the companies will have fielded their rockets just in time for the final phase of the award.
The rules for applying are fairly straightforward and not too onerous. You do have to be 18 years or older to apply. But the opportunity to apply seems quite open–they’ll even let you fill out your application in six languages other than English. Just go here, to see some of the rules, and then click on the link on the page for more rule detail. One thing to keep in mind is that even though you might win the ticket to ride, American rocket companies have to comply with very tough government rules regarding the intermingling of foreigners and space technology. The rules are so strict that American companies for this contest might not have or make rockets available to foreigners for a ride.
The application process is basically the first of a four phase process. By the fourth phase, which starts and ends on April 15, 2015, SEG will announce the lucky soon-to-be astronaut (or spaceship passenger for those picky readers). Even if you don’t win, if you’re one of the first 5,000 applicants, you’ll have a 1 in 100 chance to get a free ride on a “vomit comet”–an airplane that flies a particular flight profile to help simulate free-fall.
There are a few other application perks, and you can read about them all, here. As to how reliable the SEG is, they are backed by the Buckminster Fuller Institute. Will you pay money for the chance to ride to space?