Science

Discovery Channel’s reality show ‘Who Wants to Be An Astronaut?’ will send the winner to the ISS. Producers hope it will show that space travel can be made accessible to ordinary people.

Summary List PlacementThere's no shortage of companies offering to blast tourists into space. Elon Musk's SpaceX, Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin, and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, are pledging to do so via contests and lotteries. Despite the crowded market, Discovery Channel is now also getting in on the action.  It has recently announced a reality contest called, 'Who Wants to Be an Astronaut?' The show's makers say that it will truly democratize space travel and make it more accessible.  There's no doubt that there is huge competition between the biggest industry players, as a recent report from Douglas Messier, who runs the space...

2015 06 03T120000Z_1953973920_TM3EB630QZZ01_RTRMADP_3_USA SPACE.JPG

Summary List Placement

There’s no shortage of companies offering to blast tourists into space. Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, are pledging to do so via contests and lotteries. Despite the crowded market, Discovery Channel is now also getting in on the action. 

It has recently announced a reality contest called, ‘Who Wants to Be an Astronaut?’ The show’s makers say that it will truly democratize space travel and make it more accessible. 

There’s no doubt that there is huge competition between the biggest industry players, as a recent report from Douglas Messier, who runs the space blog Parabolic Arc, shows. It suggested that Branson may try to beat Bezos to space next month, as Insider also reported.

A source who requested anonymity told Messier that Virgin Galactic plans to fly Branson on a test flight of its SpaceShipTwo rocket plane over the 4 July weekend. That would position Branson to beat Bezos to space by around two weeks. 

There are likely to be many wealthy or well-connected people who can afford to travel on one of Musk’s, Bezos’s or Branson’s flights. ‘Who Wants to Be an Astronaut’ is more focused on everyday people, who can nonetheless rise to the intense challenge that being an astronaut requires.

The winner is expected to win a ticket to the International Space Station (ISS) on a commercial Axiom Space mission in 2022. 

The show will be an eight-part series documenting the journey of roughly 10-12 contestants, who will be expected to undertake a variety of “extreme challenges” based on real astronaut training. The purpose is to test their capabilities and gain the qualifications required for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the space station.

Winning the contest will not be easy, Jay Peterson, president at Boat Rocker Studios, who is producing the show, told Insider.  “These people need to become astronauts the way every astronaut has become in the past.” 

“This isn’t a rocket ride up into orbit and then coming down. [Civilians] are going to go up and go to the International Space Station and spend time there, do a mission, and then come home,” Peterson added. 

Eligibility for the show is limited to US citizens or legal US residents who are 18 years old or above. Further details on the expected challenges contestants will face and judges for the competition are yet to be announced. 

‘Just the beginning’

The competition hopes to create a democratic platform so that space travel is eventually viewed as an accessible mode of transportation, Peterson said. 

“This program will give someone worthy of representing the everyman or everywoman a spot that no one’s ever done before,” he added.  

But “this is just the beginning,” said Scott Lewers, Discovery Channel’s EVP of multiplatform programming and head of content at its Science Channel. 

“Every person on this planet has always dreamt of touching the stars and it’s now a reality and in our lifetime, it’s feasible. This show is that first step to bringing that everyday person to making that dream a reality,” Lewers added. 

Following the science

When asked to compare how Discovery’s space-travel competitions differ from the billionaire moguls’ plans to fly civilians into space, Peterson said launching civilians specifically to the ISS will be a signature element of the show that no other competition can offer at this point. 

Paul Ricci, another producer of the show and founder of BoomTown Content Company, said: “We model this entire series off actual astronauts and learnings from conversations and interviews with those astronauts. So that what we are going to create is that all of it is authentic and connected to the skills necessary to be an actual astronaut.

He added: “This will make for really compelling television, but also give viewers insight into what it takes.”

The required skills range from teamwork, leadership, managing fear, handling the unexpected to precision, and focus, endurance, and stamina, according to Ricci.

“These are all things that give us great material to work with when building into our series and that’s what we’re leaning into,” he said.

What’s even more fantastic about the show, Lewers added, is that once the winning individual goes into space, Discovery will be following their entire journey in real-time while they’re on the space station for two weeks, across all its platforms. 

This will allow viewers to vicariously experience the entire journey with the individual on the space station.

New frontiers

Lewers hopes this show will mark the beginning of future civilian missions to the Moon and eventually Mars. 

“Each of these steps takes us a step closer to those new frontiers and these new dreams,” he said. 

Given how accessible space travel is becoming, Peterson made a point that kids growing up in this day and age are going to take trips beyond Earth for granted.

“I just think that’s the most incredible evolution of how humans think. I think this coming generation will take for granted that regular people can kind of go to space — that it’s not a big deal — and I think this show is the first step in that.”

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