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His place in space

Associated Press

POWAY, Calif. — A man who gave up a free space ride because he couldn’t afford the taxes on the contest prize might be going to the cosmos after all.

Brian Emmett, a 31-year-old software consultant from the San Francisco Bay area, has signed on to become a consultant to a space tourism upstart in exchange for a chance to experience weightlessness some 60 miles above Earth.

Emmett won a future spaceflight as part of a 2005 sweepstakes sponsored by software giant Oracle Corp. He forfeited the prize after calculating he would owe $25,000 in taxes for the spaceflight valued at $139,000.

Enter Benson Space Co., a Poway-based upstart founded by rocket entrepreneur Jim Benson, who is trying to break into the suborbital spaceflight business.

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Benson, who dreamed of flying to space as a boy, said he sympathized with Emmett and offered him a consulting position. "He had a dream, the dream got broken and we fixed it," Benson said.

As part of the agreement, the company will pay Emmett to serve as a "test passenger," allowing him to hitch a free ride into space in late 2008 when the company hopes to send its first paying tourists, Benson said.

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