OVER the weekend, I chanced upon the news showing the new mission to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule. The SpaceX Crew 2 consists of four members, one of them an American woman pilot, Katherine Megan McArthur. Then, I began dreaming and asking myself. What if I had become an astronaut or a space engineer? Well, I guess it's too late for me to do this in my life right now.
Amazed in seeing two women, Shannon Walker from SpaceX Crew 1 and Megan McArthur from Crew2, aboard the International Space Station at the same time last week after the Crew 2 Dragon docked successfully at ISS, I wished I had considered giving myself a chance to try out a breathtaking career of hopping aboard a space flight ad defying gravity in outer space. I just wonder what are the necessary preparations that entail an entry into the space industry?
In the Philippines, the interest and support for such industry have just started with the establishment of the Philippine Space Agency by virtue of Republic Act 11363 or the Philippine Space Act signed into law on 8 August 2019. This enactment aims to focus the Philippine government's management and operations of the Philippine government's space program which has been lodged in different agencies of the Department of Science and Technology or DOST.
Albeit the fledgling creation of our own space agency, the Philippines has launched successful space missions such as the Maya-2, the Philippines’ second cube satellite and fourth small satellite overall which was deployed from the International Space Station through JAXA’s Kibo module last March 2021. According to Director Joel Joseph Mariano, PhilSA's first Director General, Maya-2 was "developed by Filipino scholars under the auspices of the BIRDS-4 Project together with Japan’s Tsuru and Paraguay’s GuaraniSat-1 cube satellites. Maya-2 will soon be followed by Maya-3 and Maya-4 which are currently being built locally by Philippine universities with the support of the Philippine government."
Now, with a centralized agency and sufficient funds for the country's space program, the question is, do we have enough manpower to fill in the vacancies of the new agency? Based on the recruitment tracker of the Philippine Space Agency, out of the 108 plantilla positions created, only 13 of these are filled up as of the moment.
DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones has been noted several times for launching the Education Futures Unit which aims to "seek answers to numerous challenges facing education, and craft policies based on research, global trends, and best practices." The said unit ultimately aims to explore scenarios in education. Secretary Briones is optimistic and excited about these developments and encourages the young generation to pursue careers in the field of science and technology, engineering, and mathematic or STEM. This is the solution to fill in the gaps and demands of the emerging industries in the country such as the Philippine Space Program.
If I can just turn back time, at least twenty years ago. I would have taken up Space Engineering and have the chance to become the first Filipina astronaut to go on a mission at the International Space Station. Indeed, a dream I dreamt too late.