World Touring Car Championship racer Tom Coronel will travel into space in 2014, after signing up to become one of the 100 'founder' astronauts of a programme run by former F1 team owner Michiel Mol.
During the Millionaire Fair in Amsterdam last week, the 39-year-old signed a contract with Dutch entrepreneur Mol, co-founder of SXC Space Expedition Curacao and formerly a director of the Spyker and Force India F1 teams.
He joins Dutch model Doutzen Kroes and DJ Armin van Buuren in signing up for the programme.
“I vividly remember that Wubbo Ockels, the first Dutch astronaut, came to visit us at home and told about his adventure in space in a very inspiring way,” said Coronel. “From that moment on, I was certain: being able to wave to the earth as an astronaut from space, wouldn't that just be fantastic?
“I have said it several times in various interviews in the last couple of years. My answer to the question what I would like to do once in my life invariably is: 'Travelling to the moon!' That is still beyond reach, but this is already getting very close. For me, it cannot come quickly enough. Thanks to at least one and probably two sponsors, I am one of the one hundred lucky persons who will be the first ones to enjoy this unique experience in 2014. This is one of the few things still on my list and I will be able to tick that box, too. Just great.”
Coronel heard about the project from Mol when they met at the Ascari Race Resort in Spain. “We were seated at the same table one evening and Michiel told his story. I still knew him from Formula 1 and this again was something that really appealed to me. Honestly, I spent a couple of sleepless nights to get used to the idea. For me, there was no doubt that I wanted to do it, but everybody knows that it is an expensive project. With the support of one and probably two sponsors, the identity of which I can only reveal at a later stage, the basis for signing the contract was there. At that occasion, I also met Michiel's partners Ben Droste, Harry van Hulten and Maarten Elshove. They told me that Armin van Buuren and Doutzen Kroes are also in the group of the first one hundred 'founder' astronauts and when you hear all that, it all becomes even more special.
“Moreover, this is more than just an event for the 'happy few'. This is also a project that contributes to reducing air flight time. In the future, it will be possible to fly from here to Australia in 2.5 hours, and probably with more than the two people that now fit into the capsule. The total journey lasts approximately one and a half hours and in that time, you are going up to an altitude of more than 100 kilometres and back. Now that is a sensation of speed for you! Until then, I will still be fully committed to racing in the FIA WTCC. We are still in the process of negotiations to finalise our plans for the 2012 World Championship.”