Sure, it’s a marketing gimmick, but it’s also an exciting new endorsement for XCOR Aerospace and its Lynx suborbital spaceplane.

Multinational personal care products company Unilever has bought 22 tickets (retail value about $2.1 million) for a contest it’s calling the Lynx Space Academy (enter at

Grand Prize winner will be drawn at random and announced in a 30-second Super Bowl commercial on February 3. The rest have to compete based on votes on their statement of why they want to go, and then through a couple of Space Camp challenges over the coming year.

Unilever’s ad campaign plugging the contest is based on the idea that astronauts are sexy. And as this particular ad further implies, the reason astronauts are sexy is because they take risks.

I spoke with XCOR CEO Jeff Greason last week, and he had this to say on the subject of risk on the new class of commercial suborbital spaceships, including Lynx:

It’s very critical to this business that all the players and the public understand the safety implications. We are striving to be as safe as the engineering art will permit us to be, and I think we can be much, much safer than past government spaceflight efforts have been. All of that can be true, but it can still be a high-risk endeavor compared to driving a car or taking a cruise. This is not—in the first or even second or third generation of craft—this is not going to achieve the same level of safety as something mature and with a century of development behind it like aircraft. That’s a difficult balance to explain to people: that at the same time we can be a great deal safer than people have thought of space as being in the past, and still be—by ordinary terms of daily life—a fairly high-risk activity. They’re both true.