Sunday, February 3, 2013

Nothing Beats an Astronaut: How the AXE Apollo Sweepstakes Benefits Mankind

Nothing Beats an Astronaut: AXE Apollo Sweepstakes
Nothing Beats an Astronaut: AXE Apollo Sweepstakes commercial

Nothing Beats an Astronaut, these are the words that appear on the screen after each AXE Apollo Sweepstakes commercial. Not only is AXE offering one lucky winner a trip to space on the XCOR Lynx sub-orbital space vehicle, but the mass exposure of the commercials has generated buzz about private spaceflight and boldly proclaims the social status of astronauts above all other professions.

XCOR Lynx sub-orbital space vehicle
XCOR Lynx sub-orbital space vehicle (XCOR.com)
The sweepstakes itself (which runs 1/9/13 at 6:00:00 a.m. PT through 2/3/13 at 11:59:59 p.m. PT) offers a chance to travel to sub-orbital space aboard the XCOR Lynx. Tickets aboard the Lynx run $95,000 but it looks like AXE got a deal because the approximate retail value of the prize is $86,000 (including a $25,000 check to offset taxes).

The bargain could have something to do with the fact that the Lynx is "now under development" and "will undergo a flight test program beginning in 2013" (XCOR.com). So AXE is banking on the fact that the Lynx will be completed in time for contest winners. The official rules include a deadline of December 31, 2020 - after which the winner will receive the approximate retail value of the prize rather than a trip to sub-orbital space.

The sweepstakes was officially opened with an announcement by Buzz Aldrin, and although the rules only mention one grand prize winner, other sites have mentioned that as many as 22 people could be joining the AXE Apollo Space Academy.



Will the Winner Really Become an Astronaut?
"The criteria for determining who has achieved human spaceflight vary" (Wikipedia). The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) defines spaceflight as any flight over 100 kilometers (328,084 feet), and in the United States the threshold is only 80 kilometers (262,467 feet). The FAA is developing a special classification for Commercial Astronauts (so far, 2 commercial astronaut wings have been awarded).

According to XCOR's website, the Lynx Mark I will have a maximum altitude of 200,000 feet. So it sounds like pilots and passengers on this version of the vehicle will not achieve astronaut status. However, the Lynx Mark II is designed to reach 328,000 feet, making pilots and passengers true Commercial Astronauts.


How does this sweepstakes benefit mankind?
  • Draws attention and awareness to private space flight.
  • Funds the private space industry and development of the Lynx by purchasing (at least one) advance ticket.
  • Gets millions of viewers to picture themselves traveling to space.
  • Boldly claims that "Nothing Beats an Astronaut" boosting astronaut social status and career desirability.
  • Boosts the astronaut coolness factor, and also depicts an astronaut trumping the sexiness of firefighters and lifeguards.
  • Markets the history of the Apollo program through repetition of the name.
  • Makes space travel seem more accessible to the average person.
  • Encourages the timely development of the Lynx space vehicle by listing a prize deadline in the official sweepstakes rules.

How does this sweepstakes hurt mankind?
  • Excludes women from their marketing through the phrase "Leave a man. Come back a hero."
  • Excludes women by depicting astronauts as men, and marketing to men only.
  • Excludes women by depicting them as the damsel in distress.
  • Excludes minorities by only depicting white actors as astronauts.

It's good to see space travel promoted on what is arguably the most mainstream of mainstream television programs ever (the Super Bowl). Although the commercials are extremely misogynistic, they do a hell of a job inspiring the idea that astronauts are awesome and that private space flight is just around the corner. On the other hand, I can't think of a better way to alienate women than to exclude them completely from the boys club. I hope a women wins the sweepstakes, wouldn't that just show them!

Update 2/8/2013: It looks like there is another way into space with AXE announcing a social media popularity campaign in which the two profiles with the most votes will attend Space Camp. There, they will be joined by 8 more people selected at a later date - and 1 out of those 10 at Space Camp will be randomly selected to join the Super Bowl Sweepstakes winner in space.

I've also been looking around the AXE site some more and noticed they have some pretty funny and very macho looking wallpapers. Yeah I guess science is fun, but dude, the chicks bro!

AXE Apollo astronaut wallpaper
AXE Apollo astronaut wallpaper

2 comments:

  1. Interesting take on the whole contest. Do you have an idea of how the competition works? It seems like it is going on in two stages, a generic enter and win phase, and a social media phase.

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  2. It sounds like there are several ways to make it to space. So far they've revealed the superbowl sweepstakes, and a new social media popularity contest. The social media contest will send 2 to Space Camp, along with "8 chosen by other means at a later date." Out of the 10 total at Space Camp, one will be randomly selected to join the crew. That makes two tickets to space, the superbowl sweepstakes winner and 1 of the 10 Space Camp attendees.

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