If all goes according to plan, Justin Dowd will witness something very few people have been privileged to see: the breathtaking curvature of the earth from 100 kilometers in space. He will also become the youngest astronaut ever.
A few months ago, Dowd, a fourth-year physics and math major, was doing the Sudoku puzzle in the Metro newspaper when he read about its “Race for Space” contest. He immediately began to formulate a plan to win over the international panel of judges.
Blow them away he did: Dowd made Albert Einstein’s complex theory of relativity actually easy to understand in a captivating time-lapse film, which he wrote, narrated, and edited, and for which he drew 3,000 chalk illustrations.
He beat out thousands of other space-travel hopefuls from around the world, and, says judge and experimental test pilot Harry Van Hulten, “taught me things in his video that I didn’t understand as well as I do now.” Van Hulten will be one of a team of experts to provide the rigorous training Dowd will undergo in time for the 2014 trip. When he gets strapped into the two-person, rocket-powered commercial spaceship, he’ll be prepared to withstand a whopping 4.5 times the earth’s gravitational pull.
The self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, who parlayed his winning entry into a co-op at the Metro, where he will be creating more of his “chalkimation” movies, believes passionately in the future of commercial spaceflight.
“This is the very beginning. Space tourism is not the final goal—it’s a steppingstone to much bigger and better things.”