UVA student wins a free trip to space

UVA junior Patrick Carney hails from Alexandria, Va. and competed in a yearlong contest for a trip to space as the coveted prize. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

WASHINGTON – A local college student will be heading into space, and it’s a free ride.

Patrick Carney beat out more than 1 million other contestants for the chance of a lifetime on board the XCOR Aerospace Lynx spacecraft. He says that plans haven’t been finalized, but it could happen late next year or early 2015.

Carney is from Alexandria, Va. and is a junior at the University of Virginia. He competed in a yearlong contest sponsored by the AXE men’s personal care products company.

The first stage of the contest included online voting, which propelled Carney into the group of eight finalists who went to Space Camp, at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at the Kennedy Space Center, in Florida. While there, he engaged in challenges such as g-force simulation, air combat training and zero-gravity testing. The survivors of the training were then grouped in a lottery.

Carney says he was just in disbelief and texted his family “space bound” after finding out about the win.

“It was amazing and to walk on stage and shake Buzz Aldrin’s hand and I got my certificate and my ticket to space,” Carney says.

How far into space will he go? It’s a suborbital flight.

“It passes the line where you’re actually an official astronaut,” Carney says. “And you only go for a day, I think it’s about two or three hours. Hopefully later in we’ll do medical checks to make sure we’re fit to go to space as well as we’re going to have a mandatory training.”

He says he is proud to be representing the D.C. area and UVA in space.

Space Expedition Corporation manages the commercial flights onboard the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, a shuttle-like reusable commercial space plane. It’s expected to start flying customers into space by 2014 or 2015. Tickets for a flight will run about $95,000.

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