Everyone’s daydreamed of flying in space, but Will Kirby was raised to it. He credits his father, an industrial scientist with a PhD in chemistry, for his early inspiration.
“He was consciously nurturing a scientist inside me,” Mr. Kirby recalls. Even as a kid, he couldn’t fathom other children not sharing his passion.
“I loved Bill Nye. There were kids who didn’t love Bill Nye. I was very, very confused about it.”
Before we get into the acceptance speech territory, an explanation is in order.
Mr. Kirby – now finishing his undergraduate degree in biology at Dalhousie University – recently became Halifamous. He’s a finalist in Metro News and Space Expedition Curacao (aka SXC) “Race for Space” contest, which gives one lucky winner a trip to the stars–and a guaranteed fifteen minutes of fame.
Mission to Mars
“Why I want to be an astronaut has to do with what I think will be the next big scientific revolution,” Mr. Kirby says, namely, a manned mission to Mars and a renewed interest in space exploration.
In keeping with his extraterrestrial aspirations, Mr. Kirby plans to pursue a PhD in astrobiology, the study of the conditions needed to create life on other planets.
“I’m really hoping to accelerate myself to the top of the field, the best astrobiologist in the world, so when the manned mission to Mars comes along, they’ll ask me to go with them.”
He pauses, grinning sheepishly. “It’s a bit hopeful,” he admits.
But at the end of the day, however, Will Kirby’s interest in visiting the stars isn’t so much a career goal as a lifelong dream come true.
“A lot of the astronauts say they go up for the first time and they’re just dumbfounded by it,” he notes. He doesn’t expect to react any differently. “You get to see earth as so few people have. It must be magical.”
Reaching for the stars
Mr. Kirby, who left his hometown of Acton, Ontario four years ago to attend Dalhousie, found out about the contest thanks to an 8:30 morning lecture.
He’d go in early and pick up a Metro to pass the time. When he discovered the “Race for Space” contest, he penned an impassioned spiel on the Race’s website and enlisted an army of friends and family to vote his name into the finals.
He received in impressive 80,000 votes online. “My mom got all of her friends, and old women are excellent voters,” he says.
Mr. Kirby’s competition included Picnicface comedian Cheryl Hann and Trailer Park Boys’ actor Mike “Bubbles” Smith (a Canadian finalist). When the space-dust settled, and the votes counted, he was still standing.
An end to the space race
The worldwide winner was announced by Metro on April 26, but unfortunately, Mr. Kirby won’t devlier any grand speeches or Nobel-winning photo-essays.
The content winner is Justin Dowd, an American math and physics student from Boston.
“I’m glad the guy who won deserved it,” says Will. He's disappointed, but remains undaunted. “This changes nothing. I still have these big plans and I will continue pursuing them to the best of my abilities.”
He’s learned a lot from the experience and feels his notariety will also help him in his career. Also, his runner-up prize will give him cash to either some skydiving or flying lessons.
Not quite space, but it’s a close second.
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