Gone are the days of Salman Khan-hosted Big Boss and Keeping Up With The Kardashians, reality television producers are eyeing the International Space station as the location for the hottest new shows. Word is that The Discovery Channel is considering Who Wants to be an Astronaut while a competitor, Space Hero is hoping to land somewhere else.
Who Wants to be an Astronaut relies on traditional reality television tropes, whereby contestants will vie for an all-expenses paid trip to live on the ISS for eight days. According to CNN, the as-yet unknown variety of extreme challenges are designed to determine which competitors have what it takes to be a real astronaut, and passage to space will be provided by Axiom Space.
The Discovery Channel on the other hand has enlisted former astronaut Mike Massimino’s consulting services. Massimino, on a mission to repair the Hubble Telescope in 2019, had personally shot footage of the ISS for the Hubble documentary via a IMAX camera giving viewers a close-up and realistic look at what goes into the process of repairing the telescope. He predicts a future where more people with special, non-astronaut skills like filming, are trained for missions. “Hopefully, we’ll get better movies out of it, and better entertainment – that’s what I’m hoping for.”
However, Massiomino also highlights a challenge – the ISS is narrow and cramped, and it wasn’t built with big cameras in mind. “You can’t have a whole crew. You are not going to be able to launch 50 people to the space station.” But advancements in camera technology and a reduction in barriers to space travel have broadened the scope of what is possible on the ISS.
The report says that Who Wants to be an Astronaut is entirely US-based, but Space Hero is attempting to bring a global component to the TV-in-space sector. Creators Deborah Sass and Thomas Reemer plan to make sure that space travel isn’t limited to countries that already have a stake in ISS. Space Hero, which is privately-funded, plans to feature 24 contestants – 12 men and 12 women from around the world. “Twelve men and twelve women, twelve from underdeveloped countries and twelve from developed countries,” says Sass. “And they will be put into a Space Village, kind of like the Big Brother house, but with wearable technology and biometrics testing.”
In Space Hero house, activities and challenges will narrow down the list of candidates until only one person remains. The global audience, naturally, will be encouraged to vote for their favorite would-be astronaut. Reemer predicts that the demand for an astronaut from lesser-known countries is there. “There is Nigeria with two hundred million inhabitants, never had an astronaut. That’s where the hunger comes from. India, the last astronaut from India was 1985…it means something to be the first astronaut of your country.”
The minds behind the global reality show have already started reaching across borders to foster relationships with other space agencies. Space Hero claims that multiple agreements have already been forged internationally. Furthermore, NASA is on board with the expansion of uses for the ISS. Who Wants to be an Astronaut is currently taking applications through its online portal and Space Hero will open on December 21, 2021.