We interview Joshua Ratcliffe, a final year Leeds Uni student who is into the final round of Lynx’s competition to go to space. After getting through the previous round in London, he and three other contestants will battle it out at NASA in December. Will he make it to infinity and beyond?
So, tell us about the competition.
Lynx began a huge competition to send a lucky winner into space on the privately funded commercial space shuttle where over 87,000 people entered with high hopes of winning the trip. The shuttle is designed to take off like a plane, however using its four rocket fuelled engines, it climbs vertically at almost three times the speed of sound and enters the region of space after only a few minutes. Here it will drift with a full view of the stars and breathtaking view of the Earth, before descending back down to land like an ordinary plane.
What made you enter in the first place?
At first sight when I saw the competition I honestly thought it was a hoax. However I applied despite my belief in whether the competition was real or not. I couldn’t pass up the potential chance of living every kids dream and going to space!
The first round was online voting, what did you have to do in the second round that took place in London? How many people were you competing against?
After making it through to the second round of the Lynx Space Apollo competition, the top 250 in the voting round were invited to the second round in London. This event was designed in knock out stages, where the competitors were challenged against a timed assault course, used as a training exercise for the British army. Next were several challenges such as a climbing wall and a Crystal Maze type challenge to collect golden tickets in a huge fan dome! This was soon followed by the interview stage in front of five judges which narrowed the competition down to just eight of the 250 people. The last round announced the final four by successfully flying a hovercraft through an obstacle course and landing safely in a timed race against the other finalists.
Your face is on a poster all around Manchester, how do you feel about that? I’m guessing your family are incredibly proud.
It’s unbelievable to see the publicity that has been received back in my home city. All my friends and family are incredibly proud of what I’ve achieved so far and I’m proud of them too for the support they’ve given me.
So what happens when you go to NASA? Are you having to train hard for it?
The final four will fly to the Kennedy Space Centre in Orlando on December 1 to receive official astronaut training which will determine the winner of the entire competition. We will be flying in an Albatross fighter jet to test our endurance at high speeds and altitudes, a G force simulator to see if our bodies can handle the extensive G force that astronauts feel when taking off and finally a Gravity flight (also known as the vomit comet) where the plane will follow a parabolic flight path so we experience weightlessness as the astronauts would in space. It’s difficult to train for such extreme challenges but I’ve mainly been keeping fit and healthy with the Uni gym.
If you could only take one of your belongings into space, what would it be?
I don’t think I’d want to take any of my belongings into space, I’d much rather take something of everyone else’s, to give it back to them after (if) I returned! At least then my friends would have something that’s been in space and knowing that would make me happier.
Who would you most like to be stuck in space with?
I think if I would have to be stuck in space with anyone, it would be Jim Lovell. A former astronaut who was on the Apollo 13 space flight to the moon. The ship had an explosion mid way through the flight and it never made a landing. Despite that, the crew were able to orbit the moon and land back on Earth in one piece. So if I were in space I’d want it to be with him to keep a cool head and get me back safely!
We hope you make it to space and wish you luck. Do you have an inspiration or a role model that is keeping you motivated for the competition?
Despite the pressure of my friends (who already seem to think of me as the winner) I think they’ve acted as my role models because they keep my spirits up and motivation high. I don’t think I would be able to train this hard without their confidence in me to do so well.