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Old 05-27-2005, 07:42 AM
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7-up and Spaceship On

I'm going to be drinking 7-up and A&W, this has to be the best prize I've ever seen.

Soft-drink firm offers suborbital space trip

May 26, 2005 | 9 p.m. ET
The latest zero-G giveaway: When SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X Prize last October, the marketers behind the Diet 7UP soft drink said they would give away the "first free ticket to space" and this week, the contest has begun.

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To take part in the promotion, you go to (actually, a linked Web site) and enter 15-character codes that are printed on a variety of 7UP, Sunkist, A&W Root Beer and Canada Dry bottle caps and 12-packs, sometime between now and Sept. 15. Codes are also available by mail. Check out the official rules for details.

The grand prize is a suborbital trip to the fringe of space, on a yet-to-be-flown craft that's based on SpaceShipOne technology. Why SpaceShipOne? Because the giveaway deal is being put together through the auspices of the X Prize Foundation.

"One of the rules that the [X Prize] teams signed onto in their master team agreement was that the X Prize Foundation would have access to some of the early seats at the going ticket price," Peter Diamandis, the foundation's chairman, explained.

7UP plans to take one of those seats, Diamandis said. It will also take care of the $200,000 price tag, plus an extra $100,000 to cover the tax bill.

It would be up to SpaceShipOne's team at Mojave Aerospace Ventures to make sure the seat is open on a spaceship that has licensed the SS1 technology. For now, the obvious candidate is Virgin Galactic, the only known licensee, but the agreement could also be fulfilled by "someone else who licensed the technology," Diamandis said.

Hmm. What happens if there are multiple licensees, which would be allowed under Virgin Galactic's non-exclusive agreement with Mojave Aerospace Ventures? "I have no idea," Diamandis said.

If no one can make good on the ticket by the end of 2009, the winner would just get $300,000 in cash.

7UP isn't the first to give away a "free ticket to space": Volvo and Virgin Galactic crossed that threshold back in March when they gave Doug Ramsburg a suborbital reservation back in March. (The make-good deadline for that contest is March 1, 2009.) And there are still more contests, presented by Oracle and a Norwegian chocolate company in cooperation with Space Adventures. So there may well be a promotional space race ahead to see who really gets that first free ride.

Diamandis said such promotions hinted at the shape of things to come: "I believe we will have lotteries for spaceflight, and we will have many other promotions. ... This is an important part of keeping the concept in the minds of the public that personal spaceflight is possible."

In the shorter term, Diamandis is turning other zero-gravity aspirations into reality through Zero Gravity Corp., another venture he pioneered. Last year, Zero Gravity began operating parabolic zero-G airplane flights, and now NASA is preparing to contract for at least a couple of those parabolic flights for its own research purposes this summer.

Diamandis declined to discuss the potential deal in detail, but Keith Cowing's NASA Watch Weblog notes that the space agency has prepared a solicitation that's tailor-made for Zero Gravity's service. NASA already has retired its KC-135A "Vomit Comet," and Diamandis said the modified C-9 airplane that was supposed to take its place for zero-G flights isn't ready yet.

"Our job is to provide a better service," Diamandis said.

Zero Gravity's "G-Force One" plane will play a role in the Diet 7UP commercial to be unveiled on national TV June 13, touting the "Free Ticket to Space" sweepstakes. For further background on space contests (including the Buzz Aldrin angle for the 7UP promotion), check out Space Race News and the "Space Tourism" roundup at Clark Lindsey's HobbySpace log.

May 26, 2005 | 9 p.m. ET

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