The Soapbox: Saskatchanaut's bid one worth watching, supporting

Justin Crann
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High school science teacher Stephen Lys has a lofty ambition: to visit space.

It’s incredible what can be achieved with ambition, vision and the support of our friends.

Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing a high school science teacher at Peacock Collegiate named Stephen Lys.

For those who are unaware, Lys has entered himself into a contest sponsored by AXE Fragrances to take a commercial trip into space. The contest is vote-driven, and every individual interested in voting has to sign in using their Facebook account to minimize the potential for vote-rigging and double- or triple-dipping.

The two top-voted candidates as of the end of the contest win a trip to Orlando to attend space camp, after which one of the candidates is selected to take the flight.

Lys has branded himself “the Saskatchanaut,” and is using his bid as a means of promoting interest in space among his students, showcasing what people can aspire to with enough drive, and attempting to unite the province under his banner in order to propel himself into the cosmos.

But to speak to him personally is another experience entirely.

Upon first meeting Lys, I was stricken by his apparently unassuming bearing, his straightforward manner of speaking, and his authenticity. This is a man who is genuinely inspired by an opportunity he never thought would be presented to him.

He’s an ordinary guy.

That’s the important thing to take from this story — Stephen Lys, high school science teacher, is just another ordinary guy attempting to achieve an extraordinary goal.

When I asked him if going to space was a life-long goal of his, Lys told me that a student had asked him a similar question: if space had been on his bucket list.

“I’ve never thought of it that way because, well, who puts space on their bucket list?” he told me, grinning. “It’s like putting a time machine on your bucket list — it’s not something people realistically aspire to do, because it’s so selective.”

He’s not wrong. Only a handful of Canadians have ever taken a ride into space.

One of them — Commander Chris Hadfield — is on the International Space Station right now, routinely tweeting to his hundreds of thousands of followers, sharing surreal photographs of the Earth from orbit.

A second — Marc Garneau — is now a politician, contending for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.

There are seven others: astronauts Roberta Bondar, Steve MacLean, Robert Thirsk, Bjarni Tryggvason, Dave Williams, Julie Payette and civilian Guy Laliberte, founder of Cirque du Soleil.

Lys hopes to be the 10th name on that list, but he’s realistic about what he needs to achieve in order to pull that off.

His bid has several hundred votes behind it, but the top five have several thousand.

What Lys needs, he told me, is exposure.

To that end, he has pushed hard with the media, and has appeared in this past Wednesday’s FYi as our cover story and in the Leader-Post. He has interviewed with several radio outlets.

“What I need is a large amount of people behind me ... if we can get enough people backing us, this can get pretty real, pretty fast,” he told me. “It’s possible, if you don’t just sit on your butt and wait to see how it turns out. I’m trying to be aggressive about it.”

Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to show Saskatchewan’s youth — including Lys’s students — that he’s right.

For more information on Stephen Lys’s bid to fly to space, visit his Facebook page.

Organizations: International Space Station, Liberal Party of Canada, Cirque du Soleil

Geographic location: Orlando, Saskatchewan

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