1st Prize at Science Conference: Free Trip to the Edge of Space

Artist's illustration of XCOR Aerospace's Lynx spacecraft launching with science payload.
XCOR Aerospace's Lynx spacecraft is shown launching into space with a science payload on its dorsal side in this artist's illustration. (Image credit: XCOR Aerospace)

The makers of a suborbital space plane have teamed up with the organizers of a science conference to offer attendees a chance to win a flight to the upper reaches of the atmosphere. But the deadline is coming fast.

The 2012 Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC-2012) will take place from Feb. 27 to 29 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and Resort in Palo Alto, Calif. Anyone who registers by Friday (Feb. 10) will be entered to win a suborbital research flight on XCOR Aerospace's Lynx space plane.

XCOR Aerospace's Lynx is a two-person space plane designed to take off and land on a conventional airport runway. In addition to flights with paying passengers, the rocket-powered vehicle is being designed to carry research experiments to suborbital space.

"NSRC-2012 is providing the first ever opportunity for a researcher or educator to win a suborbital research flight and to hear from suborbital research pioneers," Alan Stern, associate vice president of the Southwest Research Institute, said in a statement.

The NSRC-2012 meeting is designed to act as a forum for researchers and educators to learn how commercial suborbital vehicles can help further atmospheric science, solar physics, microgravity science, planetary science, life science, and education and public outreach.

The conference will also provide members of the scientific community to offer design suggestions for these next generation vehicles, NSRC-2012 organizers have said. The meeting is jointly hosted by NASA, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, and the Colorado-based Southwest Research Institute. [Video: Flight of the Lynx]

Private companies like XCOR Aerospace and Virgin Galactic, backed by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, are building suborbital vehicles to make frequent and relatively inexpensive trips to the edge of space. In addition to opening up possibilities for space tourism, these suborbital vehicles are expected to play an important role in research and education.

"We don't want the researcher, educator or student attending NSRC-2012 to register late and miss the great opportunity to advance their work," Andrew Nelson, Chief Operating Officer of the California-based XCOR Aerospace, said in a statement. "We want as many as possible going to NSRC-2012 to experience the possibilities of reusable suborbital research opportunities and have the chance to win a flight that would otherwise cost $95,000 on Lynx, or up to $200,000 on competing suborbital vehicles."

The first man on the moon, former Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong, will deliver a keynote speech at this year's NSRC-2012 conference. Armstrong will speak about his experiences of flying some of the earliest suborbital research flights.

Additional speakers include Stern, George Nield, associate administrator for commercial space transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration, Pete Worden, of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., June Scobee Rodgers, founding director of the Challenger Center and Andrew Nelson, of XCOR Aerospace.

Panel discussions will also feature scientists, suborbital vehicle providers, market and policy analysts, educators and others, conference organizers said.

"NSRC attendees will hear from colleagues across numerous fields, the suborbital flight community, and government officials about the state of this new industry and where it is headed," Stern said. "NSRC-2012 advance registration closes on 10 Feb, so get your seat and your chance to fly for free on XCOR now!"

Information on registration and fees, and to enter the draw for the Lynx flight, visit the NRSC-2012 website here. The official contest rules are also available at the XCOR website.

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