Competing for a spot in outer space travel

Sara Cook is competing to have an out-of-this-world experience – literally.

The alumna is a finalist in the Seattle Space Needle Space Race 2012 contest to win a free trip into space.

“Most little girls want to be a princess or rock star when they grow up, and I wanted to be an astronaut,” Cook said.

The sweepstakes competition started in August with 50,000 entrants, before the list was whittled down to 20 contestants in December who are now competing for the first prize. If Cook gets enough votes on the contest’s Facebook page, she will fly to Seattle with five other finalists for the elimination round.

“On a slightly selfish level, to be able to go to space and float around up there and look down and see the curve of the Earth – what you see when you look at pictures from space – I think that would be pretty incredible,” Cook said.

A native of Austin, Texas, Cook remembers travelling to NASA as a child to watch the space program in action. While hosting friends from Japan at her home in Texas, one of the first stops they made was to see the Houston Space Center – the same trips she made with her mom as a child.

“She used to say that she would love to be on the first colony to Mars,” her mother, Cheryl Cook, said. “After she decided that she wanted a career in diplomacy, we used to joke that she would be the first ambassador in space.”

Cook said she always kept the thought of travelling to outer space in the back of her mind. She even applied to other space travel contests, which promised winners an astronaut adventure, but this is the first contest she has heard back from.

The closest Cook has gotten to experiencing the weightlessness of outer space is through a long career in synchronized swimming, a topic she chose to focus on in her video entry.

“I always had a passion for astronomy and the cosmos, and when my head wasn’t in the clouds, it was in the water,” Cook said in her video entry.

For Cook, the opportunity to cross a trip to space off her bucket list depends on the amount of votes she can garner in the online competition. The five contestants whose videos attract the most votes will be flown to Seattle to compete in an unspecified “mental and physical challenge.” Cook is currently in fourth place.

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