2nd SA astronaut a step closer

2013-08-19 07:25
This is a model of the space ship that will transport the astronauts to low Earth orbit. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

This is a model of the space ship that will transport the astronauts to low Earth orbit. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Johannesburg - The dream for a second South African to go to space is a step close as the elimination rounds of the Axe Apollo competition intensifies.

One South African is guaranteed a place on the Lynx ship operated by Space Expedition Corporation in 2014.

On Friday, the 30 finalists were whittled down to just six. These were tested in a range of high adrenaline tasks to see how they might cope with a high stress environment.

The high G-force activities conducted in Parys included a sky dive free fall and aerial acrobatics in a stunt plane to test which candidates, dubbed "Axe-tronauts", would make the final cut.

The competition form part of Unilever's drive to increase the brand awareness for its Axe Range of products. The Axe Apollo range will see a more rationalised line of personal care products designed in collaboration with Ann Gottlieb.


The Lynx ship will take off much like a regular passenger jet, but with four rocket engines; it will accelerate to Mach 3 in a little over three minutes.

At 60km up, the pilot will cut the engines to allow the craft to reach its maximum height of 103km. The occupants will see the curvature of the Earth and experience weightlessness for a few minutes.

Once the ship begins its glide back to the surface, the passengers will experience 4.5G for around 15 seconds when the pilot does a pull up manoeuvre to slow the Lynx down before landing.

The final three South Africa candidates will head to Florida in the US to join finalists from 75 countries who have participated in the competition.

At the Axe Apollo Space Academy in Orlando, the final 22 will be chosen and it is expected that they will head into space in the first half of 2014.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Read more on:    unilever  |  space

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