The upcoming competition, titled Who Wants to Be An Astronaut?, will give one lucky person the chance to travel to the International Space Station

By Jason Duaine Hahn
May 25, 2021 01:37 PM
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Mike Massimino
Credit: NASA

If you've been dreaming of going to space and aren't already lucky enough to be an astronaut, here's your chance to earn a ticket.

Discovery is launching a new competition series that will send one fortunate person to the International Space Station, where they'll get a rare opportunity to see Earth from about 250 miles away.

The show, Who Wants to Be An Astronaut?, is set to premiere in 2022 and will see contestants compete in a "rigorous selection process," the network says. The winner will then fly to the ISS, where they'll have a busy eight-day stay ahead of them.

"They're not just going up for a tourist joy ride. They're going up to the International Space Station with a purpose," former astronaut Mike Massimino tells PEOPLE. "It's a real space flight and it's going to be a lot to learn. Not anything — I think — overly difficult, but when you put it all together, there's a lot to get your hands around."

"Whether that means doing some educational STEM outreach or some sort of research, it's certainly going to be busy while they're up there," he adds. "So they need to prepare for that."

Mike Massimino
Credit: Courtesy NASA

The spaceflight is expected to be part of the AX-2 mission organized by Axiom Space, a privately funded space infrastructure developer based in Houston, Texas. It will come after the completion of the AX-1 mission, which will be the first fully private human mission to the ISS.

AX-1 is scheduled to take place next year and is part of the company's plan to build a commercial space station for private space travel. On Tuesday, astronaut Peggy Whitson was named as the commander for the AX-2 mission.

Massimino, who has been a regular commentator as part of Discovery's live space launch coverage and is expected to be involved with Who Wants to Be An Astronaut?, knows what it takes to get space-ready. He was selected by NASA to be an astronaut in 1996 and flew on two space flights, both two service the Hubble Space Telescope in 2002 and 2009.

Going to space was a long-time dream of Massimino's, he says, and whoever wins the competition will be in for a life-changing experience.

"The day comes and you're laying there like, 'Holy cow is really happening?' " Massimino recalls. "Part of it was a lot of disbelief."

"It was very overwhelming that it was actually happening — trying to be ready to do anything I might need to do in case there was an emergency, thinking about what this day meant and just a kind of a mix of emotions, but it really is a very significant day," he continues. "I remember so many little minutes. It's like you lived a month or more in that one day, that's how big of a day it is."

Today, Massimino is behind the mic of a podcast, 2 Funny Astronauts. He is also a professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University and the senior advisor for space programs at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

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While he is no longer making trips to space, he continues to advocate for space exploration and inspire the next generation of astronauts. Who Wants to Be An Astronaut? will be another tool in that mission.

"What I like about the [series] is that it also takes the world along for the ride," Massimino says. "It's not really just that one individual who's the winner, it's all of us."