Ever since I was a child, I’ve wanted to go to space. The endless wonders of the universe were shown to me through encyclopedia pages and books filled with images from the Viking and Voyager programs. Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke novels filled my head with stories that used outer space as a setting for fantastic adventures. Transformers, Voltron, and ThunderCats gave way to Star Trek, Babylon 5, Farscape, and Firefly as reinforcement that humanity was meant to move off this planet and into the cosmos.
I believe that the act of thinking on a global scale–considering ourselves as part of a single planetary ecosystem–can have staggering repercussions for humanity. I’ve learned that this is often known as the ‘overview effect’ and that astronauts have reported the profound effect on their lives of seeing their home planet from so far away. I’d like to see that view myself and experience that transformative effect first-hand.
I’m proud to say I’ve moved ever closer to that dream through the years. I’ve worked at US Space Camp in Florida, helped get parabolic flight provider Zero Gravity Corp off the ground (literally!), been badged (as a subcontractor) at several NASA facilities, and championed our united celebration of human spaceflight through Yuri’s Night. What I’ve slowly realized is that my goal isn’t actually to get me to space. I want my kids to go. My parents. I want all of us to be able to go to space. I want humanity to experience the overview effect en masse. This next project is part of that goal.
Dream it. Do it.
Today marks the official launch of the Spaceship Earth Grants. These competitive merit-based awards will culminate in at least one grant for a spaceflight experience. If you’ve ever dreamed of being an astronaut, this is your time!! The applicant that is selected will be able to choose any commercially available provider that offers a substantial view of the Earth (suborbital, high-altitude balloon flight, etc). The goal is to produce a new cadre of astronauts with broad life experience that can share the message of working together on this giant spaceship called Earth.
This is not a lottery or random drawing contest. Like any other grant application, you will need to lay out a plan of action and explain why you are qualified to execute your plan. The field will be narrowed based on the applicants’ demonstration of a clear ability to communicate and a desire to convert their spaceflight experience into a planetary benefit upon their return. How would you use your spaceflight training and flight experience to inspire others to work together to make our world better? Tough questions to answer, sure. But the reward is worth the effort!
A panel made up of former NASA astronauts, industry experts, space enthusiasts, celebrity artists, musicians and others (including me!) will be reviewing the applications and selecting finalists. Part of the evaluation criteria will be the ability of applicants to connect with vast and varied audiences before their trip–as evidenced by comments, reposts, and votes on 90-second self-promotion videos. (If no one will interact with you now, how in the world will you leverage a whole space experience later?!?)
Let’s be serious: not everyone that applies can be selected to have a spaceflight experience. There’s simply no funding for that (yet). All Spaceship Earth Grants (SEG) applicants will receive credit toward a spaceflight training experience and membership in The Planetary Society.
To sweeten the deal, the first 5,000 people to create a profile will be eligible for one of 50 Parabolic Flight Awards. That’s a REALLY great bonus with astounding odds. I’ve experienced almost 6,000 parabolas over the last decade and I guarantee it is an unforgettably amazing experience! This alone is reason enough to apply.
Paying it forward.
SEG has been organized as a Public Benefit Corporation. This is similar to a non-profit, though with fewer restrictions on how to make money and more freedom on how to give it away. A percentage of funds generated (from application fees, etc.) will be granted to outstanding organizations around the world that share our mission of creating a world that works for everyone. Initial grants will be made to partner organizations including: Fragile Oasis, The Overview Institute, The Planetary Society and Project Nominate. The goal is to have SEG be a supporting part of a network of amazing organizations doing the hard work of making everyone’s lives better.
I look forward to awarding someone out there a trip to space and, eventually, getting there myself.
Apply today at SpaceshipEarthGrants.com