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3 lucky Filipinos off to space academy

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FACEBOOK/Axe Apollo Academy

MANILA, Philippines—Three Filipinos will be whisked away to another world, with the lucky one to be booked a flight to outer space—literally.

Out for a simulated space mission are: Hotel and Restaurant Management graduate Evan Rey Datuin, 24; freelance graphic artist Ramil Montalvo Santos, 29; and Philippine Air Force lieutenant Mario Mendoza Jr., 31. They are off to the United States Space Camp in Florida in December.

The three are the Philippine representatives to the Axe Apollo Space Academy global contest, which will send 23 people from all over the world on a pioneer suborbital space flight. The hundreds of representatives from more than 60 countries will have to pass a weeklong training in Orlando, Florida.

Mendoza and Datuin were the overall champions of a national contest launched by Axe Philippines earlier this year, which was dubbed the search for the first Filipino astronaut.

The contest began with online voting, which saw 28,020 astronaut hopefuls from the Philippines. It was the fourth highest number of national contestants in the world, said Axe Philippines brand manager Gem Laforteza.

Of that number, only 4,085 were short-listed to take an IQ test, and only 400 passed to qualify for the military-style obstacle race at Bonifacio Global City last August.

Mendoza and Datuin secured their places by literally being the last men standing in a final test of endurance where they had to stand on a peg for hours.

 

Lucky pick

Santos did not make the cut, but thanked his lucky stars for being selected in the Hyperdrive Promo raffle last September, which secured for him the third slot to Space Camp.

Santos was introduced to the media on Oct. 5, when he and Datuin met up with visiting Brazilian aerospace doctor Thais Russomano and Filipino scientist Custer Deocaris for tips on how to survive Space Academy.

Laforteza described the contest as an opportunity “to help a nation like ours to dream big.”

“A lot of people are actually interested in space science, but they feel they can’t achieve that dream. When they saw we would really send them to space, it ignited those childhood dreams,” Laforteza said.

This was true for the Cavite-based Datuin, whose father was an airport engineer. “I also dreamed of becoming a pilot to know what’s out there and outside the planet,” he said.

“I’m now certain this was God’s plan. Whatever your dream, as long as you do whatever it takes, give it your best and believe in God, it will be given to you,” Datuin said.

The coming Space Camp trip has also reawakened childhood flights of fancy for Quezon City resident Santos. “I wanted to be the first Filipino astronaut. Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved flying paper planes. I’ve often wondered: What if the paper plane reaches space?”

“Of course, it’s better if it’s me instead of the plane,” Santos said.

Santos said even if he weren’t chosen, “I am already blessed and proud to represent the country” in the contest.

Rizal province-born Mendoza shared the same national pride and dream of “carrying the flag of the Philippines” into space.

Mendoza saw the opportunity as a step higher: “I’m already in the Air Force and I’ve accomplished so many things at this point in my life. I realized: ‘What’s next? What’s the next big dream?’ So I thought: Why not go into space? Why not be an astronaut?”

Suborbital space flight

The top “graduates” of the Axe Apollo Space Academy will be among the first civilians to be launched in the two-seater XCOR Lynx Mark II spacecraft, under travel firm Space Expedition Corp., in 2014.

The suborbital space flight will breach the outer space boundary of 100 kilometers above sea level, Deocaris said. With the high speed and altitude, the passengers will experience microgravity, or weightlessness, for a few minutes, he added.

For most people, even that simple-sounding flight may remain just a dream, with tickets currently priced around $100,000 each, said Deocaris.

But the balikbayan molecular biologist and biotechnologist is hopeful campaigns like the contest can popularize space tourism and commercial suborbital flights and make these more accessible in the future.

Deocaris is also hopeful the campaign can help boost a movement to have a Philippine space agency and a local aerospace dome with space flight simulators.

 

Pushing space science

“We have very few scientists in the Philippines. If we can bring greater consciousness of space science, then we’ll have children interested in the sciences and pursuing science careers,” Deocaris said.

“When the government sees the interest in space science, maybe they can put more money into it and push for legislation,” Deocaris added.

Deocaris had invited Russomano to the Philippines for a possible partnership regarding his research on the effects of microgravity on aging, and to discuss the pending local aerospace dome.

Russomano is the founder of the Microgravity Center in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the first space science educational facility in Latin America.

“We’re very happy to know that there are notable people like Dr. Deocaris and Dr. Russomano who are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. As we at Axe say: ‘Fortune favors the brave,’” Laforteza said.

Mendoza reminded the youth that the sky’s the limit for their ambitions: “As young as you are now, keep dreaming. I am probably at half of my life, and I’m still dreaming. Work on it. Keep believing in yourself. Harness your potentials. You can do it.”


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  • taga_labas

    Good luck. Proudly carry the flag!

  • mangtom

    Filipino astronaut-why not?

  • GKLer

    Based on that article, of the 3 selected, I think Air Force Lt Mendoza has the right stuff – right age (maturity), right background (physical training), nailed the IQ test among 4000 takers (intelligence), and anyone who wants to fly 20-30 year old air force planes has some really big pants (courage). I would like to think the PH Air Force will take some initiative to help him (and the others) take the next step.

  • tilamsik

    “When the government sees the interest in space science, maybe they can put more money into it and push for legislation,”

    Sad, but i think not in our present generation that has produced a culture of corruption, arrogance, “talangka”, “showbiz” and kabaklaan culture.

  • on_hindsight

    wow! congrats to the 3, with one of them space-bound :) literally out-of-this-world super thrilling experience. wave the flag hahaha

  • KonsensyaNgBayan

    WOW!…Being a Martial Baby We only dream about these thing’s to happen during our youth. News about Leah Salonga performing her stint in Hollywood, enjoying the U.S. music world with Allan Pineda aka Apl. De.Ap and his group BlackEyed Peas. Another Pineda, Ariel who lead a great and famous Rock band Journey with his outstanding voice. Eric Spoelstra leading an NBA team to a Championship. Never even dream a Filipino boxer will ever beat and push Oscar De la Hoya to retirement in the person of Manny Pacquiao. Seeing Megan Young crowned as Miss World and many more who contributed to make our country proud and shine among the best. Now seeing these young Filipinos to conquer the space was really amazing. What else we cannot do if our Government Officials would clean their acts, support our countrymen, and truly dedicate to lead us all in good faith, honesty, and dedication. Despite all these issues, let us support each other and guard the freedom and democracy we enjoy. For I STILL and ALWAYS believe we will become a GREAT NATION someday!

  • sowhatifimfilipino

    Yep, more science, less superstition, please.

    • GKLer

      More science? You mean like nukes, chemical weapons, pesticides+fertilizers, air-land-sea-noise-pollution, weapons of mass destruction, global financial and economic models based on throw-away-products like cellphones that we throw away every 2 years, wireless technologies that could be frying our cells right now ??? When you bite into that tomato, apple, potato, etc… you are probably eating 65 man-made chemicals —- YOU WANT MORE OF THAT????

      The one common factor in the advancement of science = need better weapons and technology to help our side kill the other side. Because of science mankind is now capable of destroying you and every other person on this planet at least 10x over.

      In case you didn’t know the world is running out of precious raw materials to support all that patriotism, capitalism and consumerism. Don’t believe me? Read it in scientific american: www . scientificamerican . com/article . cfm?id=how-much-is-left

      Indium for one, which is needed for TVs and flat panel displays is running out fast = about 18 years of supply left. As the world population increases, the more it will demand from the land and sea which is already dying thanks to all those chemicals and pollutants. Read the rest of it in that link.

      Science gave the earth another 100 years of life in a simulation created 20-30 years ago when it even assumed 2x more resources than it thought it had.

      Yep more science please, science isn’t going to save you, it’s too late even Al Gore says so!

      • sowhatifimfilipino

        Sounds like you prefer the Middle Ages. Well, keep on praying.

      • GKLer

        We prefer Paradise, not the Bronze, Iron, Stone, Industrial or the Middle Ages.

      • sowhatifimfilipino

        Oh got it. Well, keep on dreaming.



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