'The ticket changed my destiny'

'The ticket changed my destiny'
A model poses while donning a space suit at the Luminox Space Roadshow in Singapore, which features special time pieces designed for pilots and passengers of the XCOR Lynx Mark II space shuttle.

Tong Jingjing's decision to reserve a seat on a spacecraft has propelled her life to new heights.

Tong Jingjing hasn't yet taken the private space flight she has booked but says her experiences since buying the ticket have already been out of this world.

The banker from Beijing says she has been surprised her planned trip (almost) to the stars has made her a star, and new opportunities have taken off before her spaceship.

"The ticket has changed my destiny," says the 41-year-old banker from Beijing. "Agents have been chasing me, offering to turn me into a celebrity. Many companies have invited me to become their spokeswoman."

Tong is among 32 Chinese who have booked flights aboard XCOR Aeronautics' flight on the Lynx II craft scheduled to start ushering tourists into space between 2015 and 2016. She'll pay about US$100,000 (S$127,726) to travel 103 km from Earth.

Tong is excited to see how viewing the planet from afar will change how she looks at it after she returns.

"So many things have happened since I bought the ticket in July that make me think life is so wonderful," she says.

A 3-D printing company asked her to test its model in zero gravity. A bank has invited her to be a spokeswoman for its credit card. And a cosmetics company offered her 2 million yuan (S$415,300) to promote their products, she says.

"They thought I look much younger than my age when they saw my photo in media reports," Tong says.

The BBC will document her life before the flight, she says. "If I don't make it back to Earth, that will be a precious record for my family."

The banker is no stranger to TV. She appeared on China's popular dating programme Take Me Out in 2012. "I tried to find my partner on the show, so we could go to the South Pole together," she says. "But I failed."

Tong is planning a reality TV show of her own. Jiangsu TV plans to broadcast I Want to Go to Space this year, she says. A thousand contestants from around the world, including 30 Chinese, will compete in various challenges, and the winner will receive a ticket to space.

When Tong travelled to the South Pole, she planted the flag of the prestigious Tsinghua University, where she earned her master's in business administration.

After the school's alumni association learned she was planning to travel to space, they agreed to ask 100,000 members to pool money to pay for her ticket if she'd bring the flag.

But she hasn't accepted any offers yet. While she is in space, Tong says she will write wishes for her mother to recover from her illness and a note saying: "I love you, Mom." "I've thought carefully about what I'll do in space," Tong says.

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