VERNON - Luke Davis spent his early years living under the shadow of the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, daydreaming about one day launching into space and glimpsing the earth from afar. Now Davis, 33, is closer to his dream than he's ever been before, and he'll do anything to get there—including rolling around in a mud puddle and consuming chili peppers that burn hotter than the sun.
It's all in the name of winning a week-long stay at space camp and a 55-minute ride into space as part of the Axe Apollo space contest.
"I always wanted to go to space," Davis, who now loves in Vernon, says. "I was a little boy with big dreams. "
The older he got, the less he believed the dream had a hope of coming true. He never lost his love of space, always gravitating toward articles on planetary discoveries and advancements by NASA. In business school, he took classes that taught him about the looming industry of space tourism.
This past spring, while watching the Super Bowl, Davis saw an ad for the contest and without hesitation signed himself up. The contest awards 44 people from 22 countries a spot in space camp, and from there, half as many will earn a trip into space on a Lynx Mark 2 experimental jet.
"I've never been very athletic," Davis says. "This is my chance as a chubby Canadian to go to space."
Right now, Davis is sitting 60th out of 10,000 people, and to win, he knows he needs to stand out. That's where the hot peppers and mud-bathing come in.
"I sent out a tweet asking what do I have to do to get your vote," Davis says. "The first request was for me to frolic in the mud like a moose."
Through social media, Davis hopes to garner enough votes to put himself on the space jet.
"I will do almost anything as long as it doesn't kill me or make me really sick," he says.
Winning the trip into space would take Davis 103 kilometers above earth, or as he says, "about three times as high as the Red Bull stratos jumper." He says his wife is behind him all the way, but "doesn't want to hear any more unless I win." His four daughters have their concerns about dad venturing off into space.
"They were worried I might die in space," he says. "But my eldest said, 'this is daddy's dream and we should support him.'"
Only two Canadians will win the chance to attend the Axe Apollo Space Academy where they'll meet Buzz Aldrin, one of the first astronauts to walk on the moon. But only one will get to ride shotgun in the suborbital spacecraft called the Lynx. Just like professional astronauts, the participants will be put through their paces, and those to perform the best in the simulations will be the ones selected for the voyage.
"The intrigue is the trip, to see the world from a different perspective," Davis says. "Talk about dwarfing all your problems. It's known as the Overview Effect, all the Apollo astronauts described feeling it, this sense of euphoria. After you've seen it, you don't care about your problems anymore."
The company offering the flights, Space Expedition Corporation, has already sold over 200 flights (at a cost of $100,000 USD) and is targeting a daily commercial flight schedule as of next year.
"If I don't win the contest, I can just buy a ticket," Davis says. "So basically, plan B is to win the lottery."
You can vote for Davis here. Get in touch with him on Twitter @LukeInSpace.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250)309-5230, or tweet @charhelston.