May 19 2013 Latest news:
Victoria Leggett, Education correspondent
Thursday, January 24, 2013
A student who dreams of becoming an astronaut is competing in a world-wide contest to win a place on a space shuttle next year.
Chris Blandford, who lives in the Colman Road area of Norwich, needs people to vote for him in their thousands to be in with a chance of progressing to the next stage of the Lynx Space Academy.
By the summer, he needs to have amassed enough support to put him in the top 200 competitors for the UK and will then go through to the next stage of the contest.
It could ultimately see him win one of 22 places on board a shuttle run by space tourism company Space Expedition Corporation which will travel 103km to the outer layers of the earth’s atmosphere.
Mr Blandford, 20, is studying for a masters degree in natural science at the University of East Anglia, said: “I’ve been obsessed with space since the age of 10. For my 11th birthday, my dad took me to Cape Kennedy in Florida during a family holiday to Disney.
“The flight back was delayed by the pilot so, when we were in the air, we saw a space shuttle taking off. It changed my life.
“I’m now trying everything and anything to work in that sector. When this competition came up, I signed up instantly.”
The 200 competition entrants in the UK with the most votes will be invited to London to take part in a series of physical and mental challenges. The top four from that will then meet up with competitors from across the world in Florida to take part in a global space camp and just 22 will be chosen to take part in the shuttle mission.
Mr Blandford, who grew up in Kent, said: “It takes off and lands at an airport and I think they’re planning to take off in the Caribbean. The shuttle flies into the top layers of the atmosphere – 103km so it’s barely in the earth’s atmosphere. It’s as good as being in space. You experience zero gravity.”
The student hopes to go on to work for a space agency – with the main aim of becoming an astronaut – and believes the competition would be the “ideal work experience”.
He added: “I would imagine a couple of thousand votes would be a safe estimate to get me in the top 200.
“But the guy in first place has 11,000 votes at the moment. My aim would be to be number one so I get noticed and have a better chance to get through the next round.”
To vote for Mr Balndford, go to www.lynxapollo.com/en_GB/5784/ chris-blandford/