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NU student’s next assignment is out of this world

Worcester native wins ride to space

“It’s really going to take a few days to sink in.” Justin Dowd said. Boston Globe

Northeastern University physics and math major Justin Dowd has had a painting of an aerial view of the earth hanging on his bedroom wall since he was a child.

He learned Wednesday that he will take in that view aboard a private spacecraft, after winning a contest sponsored by the Metro newspaper chain and a Dutch space expedition company.

“It’s really going to take a few days to sink in,’’ Dowd, 22, a Worcester native, said by phone. “It’s incredible. It’s a dream.’’

Dowd won the contest, dubbed Race for Space, by submitting a chalk animation video that he created on Einstein’s theory of relativity, beating out hundreds of thousands of entrants worldwide, according to a statement from the Metro chain, which publishes free daily newspapers in 18 countries and has a Boston edition.


Before the launch from Curaçao in the Caribbean, which Dowd said is tentatively scheduled for early 2014, he will train in the Netherlands with instructors from the company, Space Expedition Curaçao, or SXC, the Metro statement said.

As part of his training, Dowd will ride in an L-39 Albatross, a single-engine tandem-seat jet trainer, to simulate the most important phases of spaceflight, the statement said.

Dowd said he is looking forward to the training and the eventual flight aboard the company’s spacecraft. The spacecraft, the XCOR Lynx, will take Dowd to space and back in a couple of hours, the statement said.

“I’ll be able to see the atmosphere and curvature of the earth,’’ Dowd said.

Dowd expects an adrenaline rush on the day of the launch, as the spacecraft travels at three times the speed of sound, or Mach 3.

“When I fly on commercial jets, I take my shoes off so I can put my feet on the floor and feel the roar of the engine,’’ he said. “Going Mach 3 in a space shuttle is kind of the ultimate.’’


At Northeastern Wednesday, Dowd’s dean reflected on the celestial nature of Dowd’s upcoming adventure.

“Northeastern is very proud of Justin,’’ J. Murray Gibson, dean of the College of Science at Northeastern, said in statement released by the university. “All of our students aim for the stars. . . but this is the first one to reach the final frontier!’’

Travis Andersen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.