LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Brian Emmett's childhood fantasy came true when he won a free trip to outer space.
But the 31-year-old was crushed when he had to cancel his reservation because of Uncle Sam.
Emmett won his ticket to the stars in a 2005 sweepstakes by Oracle Corp., in which he answered a series of online questions on Java computer code.
He became an instant celebrity, giving media interviews and appearing on stage at Oracle's trade show.
For the self-described space buff who has attended space camp and watched shuttle launches from Kennedy Space Center, it seemed like a chance to become an astronaut on a dime.
Then reality hit. After some number-crunching, Emmett realized he would have to report the $138,000 galactic joy ride as income and owe $25,000 in taxes.
Unwilling to sink into debt, the software consultant from the San Francisco Bay area gave up his seat.
"There was definitely a period of mourning. I was totally crestfallen," Emmett said. "Everything you had hoped for as a kid sort of evaporates in front of you." (continued)
An incomplete thought on the part of the team that offered this trip as a prize. I've been on a prize committee in my lifetime and understand it's hard to balance the cool factor with the tax factor. If Oracle offers this prize again they either need to offer a cash prize that, after taxes, equals the amount of taxes for the trip or they need to convince the government to make trips to space tax exempt.