Spaceship Earth Grants (SEG), a US public-benefit organization and an affiliate of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, has launched a contest that aims to give away one space flight for every 50,000 applications it receives. With a judging panel made up of former NASA astronauts, industry experts, space enthusiasts, and others, this new program aims to be a crowd-driven and crowd-funded effort to send private citizens into space.

The winner (or winners) will receive a trip aboard a spaceflight provider flight available at the time of the award announcement. In other words, should the likes of space tourism companies like Virgin Galactic or Space Adventures be capable of offering trips into space at the time, then the winning candidate would be booked aboard one of their flights. Subject, of course, to availability and the various restrictions one or all of these companies may impose, along with the rider that no promise is made to be able to fly on a particular carrier.

Included in the major prize will be a Spaceflight Training package from SEG's Star Harbor Space Training Academ, and all travel expenses, including basic airfare to and from the participants home country or state, along with meals, ground transport, and accommodation.

To be eligible, applicants need to be at least 18 years of age. To enter, participants must first create an account on the SEG website and then pen a short essay (with the option to also submit a 90-second video) in answer to the question: "How will you use this experience to better yourself, your community or our planet?" The answer to this question will form the primary selection criteria regarding the applicant’s demonstration of a clear ability to communicate this benefit to the judges.

As SEG claims to be committed to providing this opportunity to a diverse range of people across a range of different cultural and economic backgrounds, the application fee required when you apply to enter the competition will vary dependent upon the relative wealth of the nation in which you live. This will range from (a non-refundable) US$15 to US$90, which will go into a combined fund made up of all participants' entry fees to pay for the eventual spaceflights and other SEG flights, programs, and training.

"Space is thrilling; however, this is not just about creating thrill rides for people," says former NASA Astronaut Leland Melvin, President of Spaceship Earth Grants. "There are aspects of spaceflight that can generate shifts in perspective to positively and profoundly influence the way people behave and think about our world. We want to facilitate that positive impact by awarding space travel to enthusiastic individuals who will be influential ambassadors by sharing their new insights with others in a compelling and inspiring way."

As an added incentive – if the idea of flying into space wasn’t enough – SEG also plans to give away an in-atmosphere, parabolic flight, weightlessness experience ride to one in every 100 of the first 5,000 applicants. These people will also receive a $500 discount for entry into the (yet to be announced) Star Harbor Space Training Academy program, one-year membership to the Planetary Society, and a Certificate of Application emblazoned with a unique "SEG Crew member ID."

Applications close December 31, 2014 and – in line with SEG's fair and open worldwide inclusion policy – may be submitted in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Arabic, Russian, or Mandarin.

This will be followed by what SEG calls a "Media Rally Period" running from January 5 to February 28, 2015, where applicants will be encouraged to use the influence of social media networks to gather greater attention and support as to why they should be chosen to win.

A list of finalists will then be made March 2, 2015 by the SEG council, with winners to be announced April 12, 2015 – the 54th anniversary of the first human space flight.

SEG’s promo video for the competition can be viewed below.