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Sun, Jun 29, 2003

Canadian X-Prize Team Picks First Six Astronauts

Three Canadians, Engineer, Ukranian And Young American Competing For $10 Million

After a worldwide search for candidates, the Canadian Arrow team, one of 24 groups competing for the $10 million X-Prize, announced Friday the composition of its first flight crew. The six will all train with hopes of making the final cut, as part of the two-man crew the Arrow team hopes to send into space.

The team we've got is an extraordinary group of people," said Canadian Arrow team leader Geoff Sheerin in an interview with SPACE.com. "We were actually looking for people who were a lot like (NASA's) Mercury Seven."

The Canadian Arrow team hopes to win the X-Prize, a worldwide initiative to get private citizens into space. "This is fantastic and I'm honored to be with such a select group of people," Canadian Arrow astronaut David Ballinger told SPACE.com. "It's a chance in a lifetime." Along with Ballinger, the "Arrow Six" includes Canadian Forces Capts. Ted Gow, 34, and Terry Wong, 38, both experienced military pilots. 31-year-old Jason Dyer, originally from London, Ontario, is an aerospace engineer by training. Finally, there's an American among the "Arrow Six," 28-year old Larry Clark. He's a commercial pilot who hopes to become the youngest man ever launched into space.

Youth And Experience

Yaroslav "Yarko" Pustovyi, 32, is the only member of the team with actual space training. Originally from Kiev the Ukranian astronaut now works at the National Space Agency of Ukraine (NKUA). He trained at NASA to backup Leonid Kadenyuk, his country's first astronaut, on the STS 87 space shuttle mission.

"I think I can bring some of my experience to this project," said Pustovyi. "I know what it's like working within a government-structured space program, and how the public sees space travel."

Pustovyi put his finger on the true purpose of the X-Prize, which will be awarded to the first team that can fly a reusable spacecraft to an altitude of 62 miles (100 km) and back. "This is not just a competition for new technology," he added. "I think it's about showing people that progress has made a huge step forward and that space is really close to us these days."

The earnest Canadian team, led by Geoff Sheerin, faces some pretty tough, well-known competition in its bid for the X-Prize. Perhaps best known is aircraft designer extraordinaire Burt Rutan, whose X-Prize entry (right) is a two-vehicle solution. One carries the other, which, after reaching altitude, is dropped from the mothership's belly, fires its engine and streaks into the vacuum of space. Rutan has kept a tight lid on information about his two-ship venture, refusing to announce a launch date. Canadian Arrow's Sheerin is doing likewise.

"We will make that decision when we get there," Sheerin said of when he plans announce a launch date. "I think we're going to wait until we think we're absolutely ready."

FMI: www.canadianarrow.com

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