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Thursday, June 10, 1999 Published at 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK


Thunderbirds are go!

Steve Bennett (left) and Gerry Anderson with the Thunderbird model

An amateur rocket scientist is offering trips into space in a home-made rocket capsule inspired by a sci-fi puppet show.

Steve Bennett is selling a seat on Thunderbird 6 for £64,500. It would be the first privately-funded space trip.

The BBC's Dave Harvey: "There is one spare seat in the capsule and for £65,000 it could be yours"
A full-scale model of the Thunderbird capsule - named after the 1960s TV show - was unveiled at Blackburn Rovers' Ewood Park football stadium on Thursday.

The scientist was joined by Thunderbirds TV producer Gerry Anderson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Martynov and Alexander Volkov.

The mock-up is a full-size prototype of the craft which is being built by Mr Bennett, a former toothpaste technician, and his team.

They are hoping to win a $10m (£6.28m) prize - offered to the creators of the first privately-funded rocket to launch fare-paying passengers into space.


Mr Bennett told the BBC: "A lot of people out there think we can't do it, but we are going to prove them wrong.

[ image: Steve Bennett...tremendous powers of persuasion]
Steve Bennett...tremendous powers of persuasion
"In four years we are going to get three people up into space and we are going to win $10m."

The former toothpaste technician, from Dukinfield, Greater Manchester, said: "The mock-up is an engineering testbed designed to check out various ideas and concepts for the actual spaceship."

Mr Bennett, 35, is now managing director of Starchaser Industries which employs 30 people and operates out of the University of Salford.


He hopes to launch Thunderbird 6 in August 2003 using a Starchaser 4 rocket.

If all goes to plan it will follow a simple sub-orbital trajectory to 105km, before returning by parachute.

The space enthusiast has already claimed the pilot's seat on his planned craft and the second place is up for grabs at £64,500.

The third Thunderbird seat is on offer as the grand prize in an international competition recently launched on Starchaser's Website.

Mr Bennett succesfully tested a one-and-a-half ton thrust rocket motor on the Altcar rifle range in Merseyside in March.

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