A Tucson law student with stars in his eyes will compete next week in the home stretch of a race into space.

Gregory Schneider has been pumping iron and pounding pavement to prepare for the last leg of a contest marking the 50th anniversary of the Seattle Space Needle.

His odds of winning the grand prize - a suborbital spaceflight - started out at 1 in 50,000. He now has a 1 in 5 chance after voters on Facebook turned him into a contender.

"It's hard to believe this is really happening," said Schneider, 27, whose homemade video entry was the top vote-getter in the online phase of the competition.

The footage features Schneider and his kids - son Jude, 3, and daughter Emiko, 7 - building a makeshift rocket in their backyard out of cardboard boxes and bedsheets.

Schneider credits Arizona Daily Star readers - the paper ran a story about his quest back in February - and fellow students at the University of Arizona for boosting his standing with their online votes.

He and wife Lindsay, who's eight months pregnant, will fly to Seattle for the final competition on May 7 and 8. Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin will announce the winner May 9 at a ceremony at the Space Needle.

The spaceflight, valued at $110,000, is being provided by Space Adventures Ltd., a Virginia-based space tourism firm.

Schneider said contest organizers haven't revealed what the finals will entail, though he expects it to be physically demanding.

"They've been pretty elusive - on the phone they said something like 'The Amazing Race' TV show."

No matter the outcome, Schneider said he's thrilled to have made it this far. "Winning would be great. But either way it should be a lot of fun."

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at calaimo@azstarnet.com or at 573-4138.