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Now, win a chance to be an astronaut!

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Jun 19, 2007 at 10:17pm IST

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Hamburg: Now you can win a chance to become an astronaut under rules of a competition launched by a German carmaker in a bid to promote its new model.

The winner will be blasted 100 km above Earth in a small rocket plane designed exclusively for space joyrides.

Although the Xerus craft has not yet been flown, it is under development and should be ready by 2009 when the launch is planned.

To enter the contest, all that is required is to log onto the website www.winatriptospace.co.uk and answer the question: "What is the best patented invention of all time - and why?"

SPACE WALK: The competition has been launched by a German carmaker in a bid to promote its new model.

The winner will be chosen from the most original and imaginative entries. He or she will have to be fit enough to undergo training for the flight and cope with the physical demands of the launch.

The competition has been organised by New Scientist magazine in association with Audi.

The German motor manufacturer's contribution is part of $12 million campaign to promote the Audi A6, which has a tenuous link with space.

Audi is capitalising on the fact that it has applied for more design patents than the American space agency NASA.

The winning flight will be taken with Space Adventures, a US company that has pioneered space tourism.

It has already sent a number of rich clients on multimillion pound trips to the international space station.

Space Adventures now plans to provide "cheap" short hops into space costing around $100,000.

To this end it is working with the Californian rocket company XCOR Aerospace to develop the Xerus sub-orbital vehicle.

Xerus, which looks like a miniature space shuttle powered by a cluster of four rocket engines, will carry one pilot and one passenger.

After reaching an altitude of 100 km it will return to Earth, making an unpowered landing at the launch site.

Travelling in Xerus, the winner of the "New Scientist Space Adventure in Association with Audi" competition will experience weightlessness and enjoy stunning views of the Earth. The entire flight will last between 30 and 60 minutes.

Jeremy Webb, editor of New Scientist, said, "Entrants will have to be imaginative, as there will be some strong contenders - both familiar and obscure - for the accolade of best ever patent.”

"The first contender has got to be the telephone. No other invention has fostered communication the way the telephone has. Next is the humble electric light bulb. But there are plenty of other ideas out there: the aeroplane, the transistor, penicillin or Velcro.” Webb added.

"I think it's a fantastic prize. Personally I'd love to win it. I'm just sad I can't enter. Imagine seeing the Earth from 100 km up, floating around in micro gravity and being able to call yourself an astronaut. How cool is that?" he further added.

The competition will run until April 30, and the winning entry will be published in the June 2 issue of New Scientist.

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