Finns launch global ‘Space Nation’ contest at Slush for chance to become astronaut

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A Finnish-led initiative will launch a global contest to win a chance to be an astronaut in 2017, it was announced Thursday morning at Slush in Helsinki.

“Many of us have dreamed about being an astronaut,” Lightneer Co-Founder and Slush organizer Peter Vesterbacka said with a bit of gravitas. “Only 600 people have been to space. Being Finnish people, and being here at Slush, we thought that was a bit unfair.”

“We wanted to give an opportunity for everybody to be an astronaut.”

Vesterbacka referred to the Finnish concept of Taalkot, or togetherness, to define a culture of collaboration he wanted to see rise out of this initiative.

He said he wanted the Space National initiative to grow from an idealistic project to a significant milestone, comparing his ambition to the unforeseen growth of Slush from a small 200-person event to the 20,000-strong super event it is today. He

“Space Nation is a new nation and we’re all in it together. Space Nation is not about building walls, it’s not about separating people; it’s not about separating nations; it’s actually about creating something we can work on, all of us together, in this period of Slush this period of Taalkot, we’re gonna create this space nation together.”

Kalle Vähä-Jaakkola, the CEO and Co-Founder of Cohu Experience, explained to the thousands-strong crowd, “Three years ago our team at Cohu Experience launched the Space Nation program to to train more people to become astronauts. “We want to make this dream a possibility for everyone.”

The grandiose prize seems incredible considering it all starts with an app. Users can test their mettle in 40 some odd physical, psychological and team-building exercises.

From there, the best will be invited to field tests in the fall of 2017, and a winner announced next Christmas.

“It has been an opportunity just for a few, yet we are all inspired by it,” Vähä-Jaakkola continued, referring to the only 558 astronauts who had had the opportunity to go beyond the upper atmosphere.

“We want to change that and bring it to everyone in their daily lives, whether its training in the skills” or getting you to space.

Michael Suffredini, the President and Co-Founder of Axiom Space, will be the one providing the proverbial bed & breakfast for the trip. Axiom has a goal to build the world’s first ‘private’ international space station.

It will begin as a module to the ISS in late 2020, and “ultimately when the ISS is retired, it will be a stand alone space station,” allowing people to “enjoy low-earth orbit (LEO).”

Referring to the benefits of space access for private enterprises to conduct research in microgravity and possibly manufacturing, Suffredini was confident Axiom would be a highly in-demand accommodation in the future.

“We’ve eventually gotten to the part where we’ve begun to privatize low-earth orbit and [will] have a space station built entirely by private industry.”

Alongside the initial contest the organization will also launch an outreach program called Space Nation Kids, which will be run by Fun Academy CEO Saana Lukander.

Lukander told the audience it was essential to embed a space-faring mindset early so the ambition to train for space would continue beyond the first program, which meant targeting “the people who learn the best, the most creative and the most innovative; and that means before school.”

“We’re looking at the overall well-being of the people, the ways to save the planet, and ways to explore the world beyond.

“Please join us, make this a better world and beyond.”

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