Alumnus competes for trip

Reporter and Reporter

A trip into space is a childhood dream for some people, but for University alumnus Mohamad Abbas, going to space is something he has the opportunity to accomplish in adulthood.

Abbas, who graduated from the University in 2011 with a Master of Science in Physics and Astronomy, is in third place with more than 18,500 votes in a competition sponsored by AXE and its line of body spray called Apollo, through which the winner will have the opportunity to take a trip to space.

The winners of the contest will attend an astronaut training camp in Dec. 2013 in the U.S., based on the results of the training, the winners of it will be sent into space, he said in an email.

Voting for the contest ends at midnight on April 27, according to the official contest website.

Getting such a large number of votes has taken a lot of effort from Abbas, his friends and family and another popular network.

“I was hosted by MTV Lebanon, which also helped me a lot,” he said. “My Facebook page with 10,300 followers is also helping me.”

In total AXE will send around 22 people to space, one from the category Abbas is in.

If Abbas wins the competition he will be the first person from the University to go to space, he said.

Finding out about the contest was more than just a coincidence for Abbas.

“A German friend of mine called Silja watched the commercial online and because she knows I am very interested in the cosmos, she directly contacted me and encouraged me to take part,” he said.

Taking dreams seriously is something that Abbas has always done; he even made his dream a career.

“Just like almost everyone else, I always wanted to go to space,” he said. “But I took my dream seriously and studied the topic.”

Abbas has done many other things to pursue his dream. He revived the Astronomy Club at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon while he was a student, he worked with the Lebanese Astronomy Group, he is a member of the American Astronomical Society, he takes his own astronomical pictures and attends conferences around the world.

Abbas hopes the trip to space will bring inspiration to those struggling to find it.

Andrew Layden, professor of Physics and Astronomy, worked with Abbas while he was at the University studying for his masters.

“Moe grew up in Lebanon and went to school there, then came to the states to get his masters, and he is now in Germany working on his PhD,” he said.

Going to space is an opportunity of a life time, but it is one some people do not understand, Layden said.

“A lot of people see it as ‘why do you climb a mountain?’ It’s a personal challenge,” he said.

Emerson Goncus, assistant professor of Aerospace Studies, said the interest in flying and space travel comes partially from experiences people have.

“It gives you a certain amount of freedom,” he said. “It’s like being 16 and driving a car, except you can do more.”

There are many similarities between flying in the air and flying in space, Goncus said.

“The same spirit that got us off the ground got us in space,” he said.

Jeffrey Bryden, instructor in the marketing department, said AXE is using the contest to step its advertising up to the next level.

“Once somebody launches someone into space, it’s like ‘been there done that,’” he said. “It’s kind of like Columbus discovered America, and the next guy comes along; you’re second, sorry.”

AXE is using commercials to hype the contest.

The price of sending people to space is a small one for what AXE will be receiving back.

“Essentially they are getting four months of public relations,” Bryden said.

Students can vote for Abbas at