Who wants to be an astronaut?

Posted by Bill Andrews
on Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This could be you, if the upcoming reality show Starwalker goes through with its plans to send two winners into orbit. NASA photo
Reality shows have been promising to transform people for almost a decade now, whether it's into a millionaire, a married person, a beautiful person, or someone smarter than a fifth grader. But soon a TV show may document a group of people jockeying for what may be the grandest transformation of all: becoming an actual space-faring astronaut.

Well, so they claim. Right now all I've seen so far is a press release and a few sites reposting the announcement of this show, called Starwalker. According to the press release, it’ll begin filming in May, and the space flights will be in 2011 or 2012 aboard a Russian Soyuz vehicle. Anyone the world over can sign up on an as-yet unknown web site starting December 12, and the competition itself will be split in two, one for each hemisphere, with two winners emerging.

While this may end up not happening, I post it because I wonder, is this a good idea? Naturally, Starwalker’s press release is full of idyllic prose on why it’s so great: “Starwalker is the best, and indeed biggest, attempt ever made to create a permanent shift in the consciousness of the public back to the sense of wonder and the majestic human glory of the Apollo era.” But is a reality show the best way to rekindle a sleepy public’s love with space travel?

Personally, it seems like Starwalker can’t possibly achieve its lofty goal. We’ve been trying for years to get folks interested in space again, so I doubt some television show could pull it off. But then again, people nowadays really love them some reality TV; if this takes off (so to speak), maybe it could be the motivation for disaffected fans to “remember” how cool space can be. And at the very least, Starwalker probably won’t do any damage to our space-faring goals, unless I simply didn’t think of them.

That is, of course, all assuming it happens. So, what do you think? Is this the best way to get people back into space? Would you watch Starwalker? Would you sign up for it?

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