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Space Cadets, 2005
In 2005, all of Britain was talking about a new Channel 4 reality series, "Space Cadets." The show's alleged concept: twelve lucky Britons were selected to become space tourists aboard a shuttle, courtesy of "The Space Tourism Agency of Russia" (AKA "STAR").

The joke, however, was on the so-called twelve lucky Britons. For days, the English public watched the participants undergo two weeks of astronaut testing and training leading up to a five-day orbiting shuttle flight. During the training period, the twelve were whittled down to three finalists.

Most of the twelve participants had no idea that the show's official title was "Space Cadets". In fact, they had no idea that they were part of a television show. And, even though they knew that they were being videotaped, they had no idea that their debacle would be televised to millions of Brits and that they were part of an over-the-top extravagant practical joke that would last for days. Of the twelve participants, three were actors.

"Russia"
The "Russian training base" was actually in a "secret location" in the UK (Suffolk). The show's biggest extravagance was the space shuttle itself. It was an actual prop for the American motion picture "Space Cowboys" originally created from a NASA blueprint. Hollywood special effects artists were brought in to enhance the ruse, adding hydraulics to rock the "ship", loud sound effects to emulate take-off, and a cockpit window running a tape loop of outer space sci-fi special effects footage.

Two actors were planted onboard the "shuttle" along with the three finalists. The actors played the roles of experienced astronauts, one American and one Russian, controlling the ship. In the meantime, while "in space", the finalists were subjected to engage in "space experiments," some authentic and others borderline ridiculous.

As prizes, the finalists were to be given 5,000 English pounds for each day "spent in orbit." For five days in orbit, each finalist would earn 25,000 pounds (about $44,000).

In order to maintain the hoax, finalists were not allowed any contact with the outside world during training and flight.

The Outcome
Britain's Channel 4 spent millions on the ruse, but the premise wore thin after a few episodes and the series wasn't a ratings winner as the channel had assumed.

Of the three participants, only one, a teacher's assistant, was disappointed that she didn't get to travel in space.

"Space Cadets" was created by Zeppotron, an English division of Endemol, a Dutch TV production company known for pulling off outrageous pranks in Amsterdam.

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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.