California 17-Year-Old Launches Attempt to be First Teenager in Space
Justin Houchin, a 17-year-old from Sunland, California, has embarked upon a path that could make him the first teenager in space. Houchin is booking a passage aboard the Solaris X, a rocket currently under construction by Interorbital Systems at their Mojave, California facilities.
“I hope to help spark kids’ imaginations about space exploration and the exciting career opportunities if they follow their dreams,” Houchin said.
Houchin, his family, and associates plan to raise funds to send him to the Russian Cosmonaut Training Center at Star City outside Moscow, where he can train with veteran cosmonauts. This would make him the world's most experienced teenage astronaut candidate by the time he is 18 years old.
At the young age of 16, Houchin graduated from Pinewood Academy of Literacy and the Arts high school in La Canada, California. He is an aspiring filmmaker, Eagle Scout candidate, athlete, adventurer, SCUBA diver, actor, and rock-and-roll guitarist, among other skills. As team captain and robot driver for award-winning Team 980 in "FIRST," an international robotics competition for young scientists, Houchin developed a solid grounding in engineering, mechanics, and physics. In addition, he has begun pilot training.
Recently Houchin was also named an official spokesperson for Space Day 2004...Blazing Galactic Trails. An award-winning educational initiative, Space Day inspires millions of young people to pursue careers that involve science, technology, engineering and math.
“We’re delighted to have Justin’s participation this year,” said Buzz Bartlett, Chairman of the Board for the Space Day Foundation. “This young man exemplifies the spirit of exploration and will provide an excellent role model for the next generation of space explorers, scientists and inventors.”
The “First Teenager in Space” concept is the brainchild of space educators Dr. Maureen Clemmons and Ivor Dawson, Founder and President of the non-profit Traveling Space Museum, Inc. Dawson explained, "We were sitting around at the Mission Inn, chatting about exciting students about space. Astronaut Richard Searfoss was with us, and he was amazed at how much Lance Bass' efforts at space flight had excited his own teenagers.
"The inevitable conclusion was that if you want to interest kids in space, then put an interesting kid in space," he said.
Dawson, who was instrumental in arranging the sponsorship that allowed Justin to reserve the "ticket to space," hopes Houchin’s quest will inspire young people around the country to consider careers in aerospace and technology.
Supporters of Houchin’s quest are also hoping press coverage will help generate more funding. A TV follow-along show is being contemplated under the working title Justin's Quest. Houchin will also be featured in the December issue of Popular Science. Additionally, students across the nation are being asked to contribute a dollar or join "The First Teenager in Space Fan Club” to help cover training expenses.
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