More look into the universe

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By Erma M. Cuizon

Sun.Star Essay

Saturday, December 14, 2013


NEWS came recently about a Filipino astronaut ready to fly into outer space, something you’d suspect would be true in our time when humans expand the power to go into undiscovered parts of the universe. Imagine a Filipino doing that.

More people these days know about the universe than the young in grandpa's time. So, when there were the few trips to the lunar orbit, the world held its breath.

I remember the day man walked for the first time on the moon, the steps belonging to US astronaut Neil Armstrong. True, there was already the first outer space trip and back to earth done by Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin. But in 1961, I didn’t hear much about orbital flights, not until the Armstrong experience, which was the historical walk.

The trip on Apollo 11 spacecraft into the lunar space at noon, as I remember it, was on July 20, 1969 when the world watched the historic walk on television. Armstrong called it “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Manila, where I was then, was unusually quiet all over in that moment except for the TV sounds from houses and offices until Armstrong and co-astronaut Buzz Aldrin finished the walk.

The two went back to the command craft piloted by Michael Collins for re-entry into
the earth. And that was a scene that could have come out from a movie. As Armstrong walked on lunar space, I expected some lunar monsters from nowhere to pounce on him, but there was none.

And now we have safely arrived in the time when young men could train to be astronauts in such a school as Axe Apollo Space Academy in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Many astro dreamers in the world registered to contend for the chance to launch aboard a space plane and go into space exploration in 2014. Armstrong, who died last year, will not be around to watch the world developing into a bigger universe.

Yes, there are young men in the Philippines interested to become astronauts.

The training of the first contesting 100 astronauts was about physical and mental strength, like in flights twice the speed of sound and in the weightlessness of space,
during take-off and landing. There were tests on simulated launch, orbit and re-entry.

There were “hero missions” at the Florida camps during the training, also simulated air combat on a fighter jet.

After the training, there are the final 23 recruits, which includes 22-year-old Chino Roque, fitness coach and De La Salle University psychology graduate. Of these recruits are astronaut contenders from 20 other countries, like the US, Australia, Japan, and India. Two women are part of the team, coming from Norway and Thailand.

More astronauts would be needed in the near future.

Of the Axe Academy recruits in the Philippines, there were 28,020 original applicants, the fourth biggest number of hopefuls among the countries sending possible recruits.

Then 4,085 were shortlisted, up to the final listing of only one Filipino recruit.

Yes, there’s a company called Space Expedition Corporation that sells seats for spacecraft trips, each seat costing $95,000. The first flight will be in 2015 even while 250 tickets are said to have been sold out, according to ABS-CBNnews.

The 23 Axe Academy astro recruits will get a free trip into the space edge and back after the year-long astro training. The announcement of the recruits at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, was followed by a graduation ceremony presided over by astronaut Aldrin, Armstrong’s co-moon-walker.

Man has gone deep into knowledge of the universe and the nature it keeps. Let's hope our look into outer space will not be the way we have infringed into the environment and changed it at our own expense.

(ecuizon@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 15, 2013.

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