Updated: Monday, 20th January 2020 @ 2:08pm

One small step for man, one giant leap for Manchester! Denton hopeful in final few for once-in-a-lifetime space trip

One small step for man, one giant leap for Manchester! Denton hopeful in final few for once-in-a-lifetime space trip

Exclusive by Jess Owen

A Denton student is one step closer to becoming the first Mancunian into space braving the empty blackness to venture where only a handful have gone before.

The deodorant brand Lynx launched a competition with the first prize a once-in-a-lifetime chance to rocket into orbit. The winner of the competition will fly into space in the privately funded Netherlands LXC spacecraft in late 2014.

Josh Ratcliffe, 21, is the only Brit left in the competition having beaten 87,000 other applicants worldwide to this unique opportunity. Voting popularity ensured Josh’s place in the first round, cutting applicants down to 250. The second round held in July saw Josh fend off another 200 applicants.

He and three others have now made it to the final stage of the competition and will be heading to Florida this December to seal the deal.

The winner will take an hour long round-trip to space, travelling at three times the speed of sound.  On entry into space, the spacecraft will curve around so the passengers can see the stars through a panoramic window and then it will curve back round to view earth before heading home.   

MM got the opportunity to talk to Josh about his new status as Manchester’s first astronaut poster-boy.

When asked if being an astronaut was his childhood dream, he said: “Everyone starts out with that dream. For some people it stays a dream. I can’t believe I have got this far though.”

Josh, in his third year studying Astrophysics at the University of Leeds attributes his desire to go into space to his love of all things physics related.

He said: “I really enjoyed one of my courses at university. One day we were looking at telescopes and I asked my tutor to look at a star I had seen. He said: “That is not a star, it’s Jupiter.” It looked as big as the moon. I suppose I just wanted a better view.”

His astrophysics background also helped him in some of the less gruelling tasks on competition days.

“Having studied Astrophysics at university paid off. It really helped me at the interview stage in London as I had good background knowledge,” he said.

However a number of tasks involved NASA-style tasks which were a little harder to conquer. Round one of the competition involved competitors making their way through an RAF inflatable assault course with people being knocked out in each stage.

Josh said: “We had to go on a gyroscope. It was really disorientating and they made us do a reaction test straight after. We were also tested on endurance and given mental challenges to perform on iPads. It was like something out of Crystal Maze – a lot of fun but very difficult.”

Having never entered a competition of this magnitude before, Josh has quickly risen to lofty heights.  On Portland Street, in Manchester city centre, Lynx has plastered a giant billboard of Josh clad in his astronaut attire which reads: “Congratulations to Josh Radcliffe, who’s closer to being the first Mancunian in space.”

Josh said: “A lot of friends have seen the billboard who didn’t know I was competing. It is overwhelming to think I could be the first Mancunian in space.”

The final stage of the competition will be held at the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando where the final four will endure G-force tests, flying in jet fighter planes and experience weightlessness in the zero-gravity space simulator also known as the ‘vomit comet’.

Josh’s friends and family have been hugely supportive of his space exploits.

Josh’s friend Toby O'Brien, 19, spoke of the hours Josh has dedicated to his out of earth antics: "I really hope he wins this! The fact that I haven't been able to go for a pint with him for weeks is a clear indicator of his commitment."

Josh’s mum Michelle also showed support for her budding astronaut son:  "Once Josh really cares about something, he totally focuses and gives it his all.

“I'm not surprised he's in the final four! I and his family are so proud. Bring on Orlando!"

Many friends and family have even offered advice on conquering the last round, however Josh has tactics of his own to prevail against the vomit comet.

“My best tactic right now is to go to Alton Towers and see how I do there. I also recently watched Apollo 13 but that didn’t really help.”

Regardless of Josh’s success at the final round in December he has plans for the future which will hopefully mean that if not now, we will one day have a Mancunian in space.

“I will pursue this after university,” he said.

“The only G-Force centre in the UK is in Hampshire and this is where they train RAF pilots. So I have been thinking about joining the RAF as a pilot. Maybe one day I will be flying people up there on commercial flights.”

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