Your smartphone could blast you into space

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Jun 18, 2017, 6:39 PM EDT (Updated)

You probably don’t look in the mirror when you think of an astronaut—but now your smartphone could possibly prepare you for blastoff.

Space Nation wants amateur scientists from anywhere in the universe (or at least on Earth) to prove they have what it takes to be an astronaut without ever leaving the atmosphere. You can tackle the physical, mental and social phases of its Astronaut Training Program in a series of taps and swipes. Meaning you can literally train to be an astronaut anywhere from an interminable grocery line to your sofa. The Finnish startup, whose ultimate goal is to make humans an interplanetary species, has a vision of making space exploration more egalitarian, as in doctorate not required.

"We are democratizing access to the space station to do experiments," said marketer Peter Vesterbacka, who developed the program with co-founder Kalle Vähä-Jaakkola. Their mission is to recruit "leading scientists from all over the planet to look at what kind of science we should work on, what problems we should be solving."

This is coming from the same guy responsible for Angry Birds taking over the virtual world.

Vähä-Jaakkola speaking at startup conference Slush.

No wonder Vesterbacka and Vähä-Jaakkola were met with skepticism from scientists they asked to join the Space Nation board to determine a future agenda, but even they were soon on board with the previously alien concept. The founders are convinced that space exploration could inspire anyone to learn what they may have once thought was too far-out. Space Nation’s Astronaut Training Program involves trials in engineering, science, creative problem solving and teamwork which are designed to be much more engaging than the average textbook and just as useful on terra firma as they are in anti-gravity mode.

Prove you’re stellar enough to be a top candidate, and you will get an invite to a two-week astronaut training boot camp that is supposed to be like space camp on steroids. The whole experience will be broadcast. Whoever floats to the top as the first official Space Nation astronaut will be floating for real and conducting filmed experiments on a suborbital space flight that could launch as soon as next year. 2018 is probably wishful thinking, but it will at least take off when a commercial firm can offer a trip into orbit and possibly even beyond the moon.

Cohu Experience (the business brains behind the program), Axiom Space, Edge of Space and Finnish education company Fun Academy are making it possible for Space Nation to rocket into anyone’s living room starting this fall, so you’ll actually be doing something productive while mesmerized by your smartphone for hours.  

But first, stop playing Angry Birds.



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