Jill aims to reach for the stars in competition

A BUDDING space traveller from south east Northumberland is appealing for public votes to send her where only an elite few have been before.

Buzz Aldrin, the second man ever to set foot on the moon, and deodorant brand Lynx have launched a competition, with the first prize a one-in-a-lifetime chance to blast into orbit.

The 22 winners, which will include one Brit, will experience earth from outer space on the Lynx SXC (Space Expedition Corporation) space shuttle scheduled to lift off next year.

And Jill Richardson-Pratt, of Rothbury Drive, Ashington, is hoping to the county will back her all the way to becoming Northumberland’s first astronaut.

The 31-year-old said: “I’ve always dreamed of becoming an astronaut so when I saw one of my heroes Buzz Aldrin announce a competition to win a trip into space, I had to apply straight away.

“The top 200 people with the most votes will go through to the next stage of the competition, so I need as many votes as possible to give me a chance to make the next round.”

Top-voted candidates will qualify for the Lynx Space Academy challenge weekend, held this summer, where they will face physical and mental NASA-style tests.

The four strongest candidates will then be flown to Orlando, Florida, to experience what it is really like to be an astronaut in the final series of challenges.

Only one lucky winner will secure their place to go to space in 2014.

Jill, a former pupil at Ashington High School, studied astronomy and astrophysics at Newcastle University before working at the National Space Centre in Leicester.

During her time at the centre, Jill kept watch, on behalf of the government, for asteroids and comets which could hit earth as well as write space stories for the centre and NASA.

She also volunteered at Ashington’s Hirst Park Middle School, where she brought space artefacts from the centre to the students to inspire them to take an interest in science.

Jill, who married her high school sweetheart Michael, 31, just over two years ago, now works as a business analyst for the Big Lottery Fund.

She said: “I’m very proud of where I come from so it would mean the world to me if people from my own home could vote for me and give me the chance to achieve my dream of becoming an astronaut.”

To vote for Jill, visit her astronaut profile at www.lynxapollo.com