A Reality Show Democratizing Space Travel Partners With NASA

International Space Station
NASA, UNSPLASH

Originally posted on Forbes.com

Space Hero will be the world’s first global competition to send a civilian into space on a $55M, 10-day trip to the International Space Station. The competition for this once-in-a-lifetime journey will begin at the end of 2021. The call will be open to candidates over 18 with fluency in English, and its first flight is targeted for 2023. Space Hero is planning fifteen seasons over the next thirty years, eventually flying beyond the ISS to the Moon and Mars.

Yesterday, Deborah Sass and Thomas Reemer, the co-CEOs of Space Hero, signed a feasibility agreement with NASA, marking the 60th anniversary of the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin. For two compassionate entrepreneurs, sending someone like you or me barreling through the atmosphere is their dream that is quickly becoming a reality.

I recently had the chance to meet this very dynamic duo to learn about their backgrounds and how this towering concept took a foothold in their lives. Their 17-year friendship began after having multiple run-ins at entrepreneurship conferences around the globe. Sass, who rose from humble beginnings in London, worked her way into the media and digital music industry and had roles at Amazon, iTunes, Shazam, and Spotify.

Deborah Sass, Co-CEO
SPACE HERO

Reemer, a scrappy entrepreneur in his own right, grew up in East Berlin and eventually opened one of the first hip-hop nightclubs there. He managed a pop band that won four No. 1 hits in Germany and attended Sir Paul McCartney’s prestigious music school, The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. He worked with other artists, including Prince was a co-founder and CEO at the first e-commerce platform for musicians, Artists First.

Thomas Reemer, Co-CEO Space Hero
SPACE HERO

Space Hero’s story begins with Reemer, who was hawking a music show in Russia in 2008. One night, a powerful Czar took him out to dinner and pitched him on the lofty concept of a show that sends one winning civilian to space. After raising funds and building out the idea, the show was shelved as seats to the ISS were unavailable for private missions. A few years later, with the emergence of SpaceX and Boeing programs, seats became available once more, and Reemer revived the show.

When he initially pitched the idea to Sass, she enthusiastically accepted before asking, “I’ve just got one question, Thomas, what’s the ISS?” Sass soon learned not only what the ISS was but found herself jetting around the world to convene with the heads of the global space industry. 

We discussed the four monstrous tasks that need to happen for this show to come to fruition during our conversation.  The first task was securing a deal with NASA. The second task, securing a ticket with a launch provider. The third, finding the right production company. The fourth task is securing a distribution deal. Sass and Reemer are currently deep in negotiation with several name-brand media giants.

What I was most inspired by, perhaps more than even the allure of space travel itself, was the sentiment that drives Sass and Reemer to make this project a success. “When you were 6, everybody wanted to be an astronaut. By the time you were sixteen, you were so far removed from it. And what we want to do in a very simple way is make space cool and sexy and pop culture again. Let’s make space mainstream!” Sass declared.

Sass and Reemer are driven by a beautifully untainted incentive; they want to sensationalize careers in STEM and inspire people from all backgrounds and nationalities to be technicians, astronauts and scientists again.

For audiences tuning in, the excitement and thrill of a space expedition have been freshly repackaged. Instead of watching a cohort of astronauts, a notoriously untouchable handful of elite trained specialists, viewers will witness an ordinary citizen of Earth embarking on the space voyage.

There are no formal credentials to apply to be on the show. Sass and Reemer are only critiquing applicants through the lens of how they define who a hero is. To them, a hero is simply a person who helps someone without expecting anything in return.

Thus far, they have received 450 applications worldwide, ranging from school teachers in Nigeria to fishermen and fisherwomen in Japan. Of the pool of 450 applicants, who Sass and Reemer each spoke with personally for five minutes, 24 people will be chosen to compete in a 6-month long series of events. Eventually, three finalists will be picked by viewers across the planet—-and finally, one.

“Space is a mirror that we take a look in and understand what kind of challenges we also face here on Earth,” says Reemer. “Space Hero will bring together arguably the biggest crowd that has ever voted.” To learn more, visit SpaceHero.org, where you can follow the project as it progresses and fill out a form and become a Space Hero Insider.