Tax-Free Space Trip Cleared for Launch

When the prospect of a big tax bill ruined a man’s chance for a ride into space, a space tourism startup put his dream back on track.

Brian Emmett has signed on to become a tax-free “test passenger” for Benson Space Co., which plans its first flight for the end of next year. Emmett will serve as a consultant, offering feedback during the testing phase of the project, according to the Associated Press.

Emmett recently turned down his original chance at weightlessness after winning a spaceflight from the Oracle Corp. as part of a 2005 sweepstakes. The Internal Revenue Service considered the winnings, valued at $138,000, to be taxable, and the estimated $25,000 tax bill forced Emmett to forfeit the prize.

In stepped rocket entrepreneur Jim Benson. His Poway, Calif.-based company is trying to break into the suborbital spaceflight business. “Dream Chaser,” which will fly 60 miles above Earth, will be powered by hybrid rocket motors and can hold up to six people, AP reported.

Benson, who shared Emmett’s dreams of flying into space as a boy, sympathized with the 31-year-old software consultant. "He had a dream, the dream got broken and we fixed it," Benson said.

Emmett said he was grateful for the second chance to go into space. "My original situation hasn't changed. This isn't something I could do with my own means," he said.

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