PGTW: Pinoys In Space

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 12 December 2013, Thursday

Pinoys In Space

It’s been said that there’s a Filipino in every country on the planet, even in the ones where we are banned from traveling, as indicated on our passports.

How many times have the travelers among us been greeted by familiar accents in Dubai, San Francisco, Accra? There’s wanderlust in our blood, the thirst for novelty, and the courage for challenge that puts a Pinoy on every spot on the map.

It’s just a matter of time, then, before one ventures into outer space, that “final frontier”, and that moment could be as soon as next year.

Filipino fitness trainer and De La Salle University graduate Chino Roque bested two other Filipino aspirants and was chosen to be the “first Filipino in space” last week. He’ll be taking a one-hour sub-orbital tour with 24 other people from around the world on a Space Expedition Corp. space plane, the XCOR Aerospace Lynx.

The promotional flight, sponsored by body-spray maker AXE, saw Roque and others take part in the AXE Apollo Space Academy Space Camp assault course at the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando, Florida.

In a television interview, Roque said he is preparing physically for the experience and intends to “give back” afterward by training children more children in sports while continuing his career as a Crossfit coach.

What I’d like to know is if there are any Filipinos among the 200,000 who have signed up for a one-way trip to Mars, as CNN reported the other day.

The Mars One Foundation said that they will partner with Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Technology for the initial phase of the project – an unmanned mission in 2018 using a robotic lander and communications satellite, to “demonstrate technology that would be involved in a permanent human settlement on Mars.”

It will be the first privately funded planetary exploratory mission. If all goes well, people will be sent to the Red Planet in 2025, where they will live the rest of their lives, as there is no rocket facility there to send them back to Earth.

Despite the possibility of never seeing the home planet again, over 200,000 applications were received, said Mars One CEO Bas Landorp. The foundation will notify by the end of the year the people who made it to Round Two of the selection process.

With the manned mission still a dozen years down the road, a lot can still happen in the intervening years. It might not even push through at all. But the fact that plans are being made, funding being raised, and the technology being developed, means that there are people who have put their sights beyond this planet, in the hopes of finding fresh and exciting opportunities, lebensraum, and the chance to build a new society that is an improvement over the one we have made for ourselves here.

Despite the incalculable risks involved, there is that within humans that drives them to explore new places, dare go where no one else has, and strike out for themselves new territory.

Why is space flight significant to Filipinos?

Among other reasons, it will provide chances for gainful employment and room to live in. The Earth is overpopulated in many areas. There are locations that are uninhabited or sparsely inhabited but they are not the best for human habitation (deserts, the arctic). Space will provide opportunities for work (developing and testing the appropriate technology, building and maintain communities, conducting scientific experiments, etc.) and, in theory, nearly unlimited living space. We don’t even need to live on a planet or a moon – we can build space stations and bases.

Space will also let us create a new society, better than what we have now. We’ve had centuries to develop a truly workable one yet everything we’ve ever had is flawed. It’s human nature, after all – nothing is perfect, and there will always be people who will abuse the system, from the political side (corruption, politicking) to the environmental (supertyphoon Haiyan is being ascribed to climate change).

But we’re not asking for perfect, because that’s impossible. We’re just asking for good enough.

Space is hope. Space is a chance for us to start over and do it right this time.

Space is the future. Filipinos are helping build it now.

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