Sean Sonnet didn’t watch TV.
The world hadn’t heard of the Hubble Space Telescope and there was not a lot of great space photography in books back in the ‘70s.
So as a boy, Sonnet used his imagination when it came to outer space. He made rocket ships out of cardboard boxes and aluminum foil and launched into space using a toaster.
“One time I wanted to create my own engine, so I used my mother’s hair dryer and plugged it in and it almost caught fire,” said Sonnet.
But now at 41, the Juanita resident who works in Redmond may soon be the first “average” person to soar into suborbital space.
But he needs your help.
Seattle’s iconic Space Needle, in partnership with Space Adventures, will be sending someone from the general public into space through its Space Race 2012 program. The mission is in celebration of the Space Needle’s 50th anniversary. Built in 1962 for the World’s Fair, its creation marked the beginning of the original space race that put man on the moon.
The Space Needle randomly selected 1,000 contestants to enter the competition phase of the contest in December. Contestants submitted a short YouTube video explaining why they should win the trip to space. Just 20 of those videos – including Sonnet’s – were recently posted on the Space Needle’s Facebook page for the world to vote on.
The public may cast one vote per day through March 18 to help select the five finalists who will compete in the physical challenges at the Space Needle to determine the winner.
“For me, going to space sounds amazing. It’s my dream,” said Sonnet in his two-minute YouTube video that won him a spot in the top 20. “I’m a poet, I’m a musician and living here in Seattle, I see the Space Needle as a symbol of dreams of what can be accomplished. My dream is to slip past the surly bonds of earth into the sun-split skies and the burning blue and touch the face of Gods. For me, that’s a dream come true.”
Sonnet’s passion for space has burned like a meteor since he was a child.
He recalls camping with his grandfather and listening to his stories about the mythology of stars.When he got older, while other kids his age were selling lemonade, Sonnet grabbed his grandmother’s slide projector.
After a trip to the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, he was so inspired that he went home and built his own planetarium using lights and a globe that he poked holes in.
He sold tickets to neighborhood kids and family members and produced a planetarium and slide show.When he was 14, he was given the opportunity to teach about space to a 5th grade class in Monrovia, Calif. He said one of the boys from that class is now a lead senior flight tech for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Mars lander project.
“Of course I’d like to think I had a part in that,” laughed Sonnet.
Space has also inspired his work as a professional musician and poet. He helped write the theme music for Star Trek Phoenix, a fan film and the largest, consistent film production in the Pacific Northwest from 2008-2010.
Sonnet now hopes to instill the same sense of imagination that he had onto his 4-year-old son.
“He’s learned all the planets and knows about all the stars, I’ll even build rocket ships with him,” said Sonnet, who works at Contract Furnishings Mart in Redmond as a stone and tile expert. “Now we have movies out and things I didn’t have when I was a kid, but his imagination still soars like mine did as a kid.”
He said if he wins the trip to space, he would be sure to wear his necklace that contains special memorabilia, including hair from his son and mother.
“I would feel like I’m taking places and people with me,” he said.
He also wants to bring a video or audio recorder, so that he may capture his experience and share it with others, including local schools.He says he hopes the Redmond community will check out his YouTube video and vote for him.
“Ultimately I really hope that I can win this because, oh my goodness, I can’t tell you how much of a dream this would be to come true. They say shoot for the stars with your dreams and I feel like I’m really doing that.”
To vote for Sonnet’s video, visit spacerace.herokuapp.com/entries/102.