Trip To Space Is The Prize As A Celebration Of The Needle's 50th Anniversary
Earlier this week, five finalists traveled to Seattle for the last leg of the Space Needle's Space Race 2012 program. After three days of physical and mental challenges, Gregory Schneider, 28, was crowned the winner of the grand prize – a trip into space. Famed astronaut Buzz Aldrin announced Schneider's win at a Space Needle ceremony Wednesday morning.
Gregory Schneider, from Tuscon, Arizona, is a recent law-school graduate from the University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law now doing a clerkship with an appeals-court judge. Gregory's family is his motivation to go to space. He said he wants to "inspire my children, to turn their dreams into reality, to venture into the cosmos, and to understand the universe." He and his wife Lindsay have two children - Emi, 7 and Jude, 3. Like their father, Emi and Jude are interested in outer space. "[Jude] talks constantly about blasting off in a rocket ship, and I won't be surprised when he eventually does," said Gregory.
The other competitor to reach the final challenge was Sara Cook, 26, a diplomatic assistant at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, DC. After three other finalists were eliminated during the first two days of the competition, the two took turns climbing the antenna on top of the Needle for time and then answering questions and solving puzzles as they walked around the "halo" of the Space Needle's observation deck. Schneider ended up with the best time and Apollo 11 moonwalker Aldrin opened the envelope and read the winner's name.
Aldrin was intrigued by the contest and by the performance of the two finalists, "I've been kind of out and back," he said, "but you wouldn't catch me walking around that Space Needle. I'm afraid of heights."
The Space Race program was launched in August 2011 and garnered 50,000 applicants from around the country by the end of last year. One thousand entrants were randomly selected from that group, and those 1,000 were asked to submit videos detailing why they wanted to go into space. Twenty of those videos were carefully selected and posted to the Space Needle's Facebook page for public voting through March 18. The final five candidates were then selected and brought to Seattle for the three day final event. In addition to Schneider and Cook, Lauren Furgason from Seattle; John Herman from Newmarket, New Hampshire; and Savan Becker from New York City, were in the final competition. (Images: Top, contestants compete on Space Needle. Bottom, Artist's concept XCOR Lynx spacecraft)