University student launches dream to infinity, and beyond

Online competition gives Carney opportunity to experience outer space first-hand


Third year Patrick Carney won one of 23 spots in a contest to head into space in 2015. Photo courtesy of Dan Addison of U.Va. University Communications.

Dan Addison and Dan Addison | Cavalier Daily

University student Patrick Carney will blast into outer space in 2015, after winning a contest pitting him against more than one million other entries for one of 23 spots.

An Alexandria, Va. native, Carney took time off from his University career in the fall of 2013 to focus on developing his popular YouTube channel. It was during this time he learned of an AXE-sponsored online competition for a trip to space camp and the possibility to win a trip aboard the XCOR Lynx spacecraft.

“The opportunity to explore the unexplored is something I’ve always dreamed about,” Carney said. “Once I heard they were offering the competition I knew I had to apply.”

The contest was based on an online voting system, and the two contestants receiving the most votes got a ticket to space camp this December. Carney said his YouTube popularity — his channel currently has more than 325,000 subscribers — was a large source of his votes. After lingering at the number four slot, Carney said he finally moved into the finalist slot at the last minute.

“My friends and family were a big part of [the voting process] and behind me the entire way,” Carney said. “I never took off the year expecting to win this competition. … it worked out really nicely for me.”

During the five-day trip to space camp at the Kennedy Space Center, more than 100 participants from more than 60 countries competed for the 23 personal space flights — and only one slot was guaranteed to go to one of the nine Americans at the camp.

Carney said the camp offered a realistic window into life as an astronaut.

“We were stationed in dorm-style tents, not glamorous — the true astronaut treatment, no hot showers,” Carney said. “They really did a fantastic job of putting it together.”

Participants were given three missions during their time at the camp. The g-force simulator, Carney said, left him feeling particularly uneasy. The other two challenges included propeller plane aerial maneuvers and a zero-gravity experience at 24,000 feet in the air.

Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, chair of the competition’s judging committee, came on the last day of the camp to announce the contest winners.

“They announced my name and I went wild,” Carney said. “Right now, the youngest person to go to space has been 25 [years old], so I think I’m scheduled to be the youngest American to ever go to space.”

As for the risky business of the voyage itself, Carney said he feels more excited than anxious.

“I’ve thought about the risks,” he said. “Before you do anything [new] you’re scared … the nervousness is there, [but] you just decide you’re going to do it, and do it.”

Carney has made a point to document his entire experience, from space camp and beyond, on his YouTube channel.

“I’m hoping to channel the emotions and really give people the whole experience without the [cost of a personal space flight],” he said. The commercial cost of booking a trip on the XCOR Lynx is $95,000.

“A lot of people say there’s a [certain] effect of looking down on planet Earth…I know its something I’m always going to cherish,” Carney said.

Carney plans to return to the University as a third-year in the fall, and plans to apply to the Commerce School.

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