A mix of Grade 11 and college students recently made a milestone in Philippine history by touching base with the International Space Station (ISS) and even interviewing an astronaut on board.
The ISS is a habitable artificial satellite that serves as space environment laboratory for various experiments and testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions.
The historical feat, made by elementary pupils from the University of the Philippines Integrated School (UPIS)and electronics engineering students from the Holy Angel University (HAU), was held at the Department of Science and Technology-Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI) on May 15, 2018.
To their delight, the students were able to talk to Scott Tingle, an astronaut from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. At approximately 4:20 PM Philippine time, DOST-ASTI successfully established contact with the ISS and Scott Tingle. All 12 participants were able to ask their questions and receive enthusiastic and insightful answers from Tingle within the 10-minute call duration.
“The approximately 10 minutes that Mr. Scott Tingle gave us is now a part of our history, and I am very thankful to be part of that history,” said Angela Kaye Tacang, another Holy Angel University student.
This was a follow-up to the first attempt that failed in February this year.
“This historic event was emotionally fulfilling and inspirational. Though the first attempt [was a failure], it just proved that there should be no reason to not repeatedly try until there is success,” said Mariangela J. Miranda, one of the participating HAU students in the live question and answer session.
“Many people have worked hard to accomplish such a remarkable project and I want to thank them for letting us experience something that we could share to others — that we’ve heard and learned how astronauts live and face challenges in space. It also inspired us to pursue our education so we can reach our dreams just like how they reached theirs. It’s going to be a very long ride they say, but it’s all worth it in the end.”
Moderating the session was DOST Balik-Scientist Leo Almazan who explained that the contact to the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) was an activity designed to provide students with ?unique, authentic experiences designed to enhance student learning in the STEM fields and this was done through a direct link to the astronauts aboard the space station.
He explained that the previous attempt to make a live contact with the ISS failed due to illegal ham radio users that were interfering with the communication link used by the UP Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute Amateur Radio and Satellite Station in communicating with the ISS.
Almazan explained that the second attempt which succeeded was coursed through the ARISS telebridge. DOST-ASTI connected with Amateur Station W6SRJ in California, USA and the station established a communication link with the ARISS.
While waiting for the actual call, Almazan prepped the students by making them rehearse their questions. PHL-Microsat Project 1 engineer Ariston Gonzalez also gave a presentation on space technology in the Philippines, Diwata-1, and Diwata-2.
The PHL-Microsat is a DOST-funded program built, launched, and effectively used the country?s first microsatellite for multi-spectral Earth observation. The program is a collaboration among the University of the Philippines, Tohoku University, Hokkaido University, and DOST-ASTI.
UPIS student Christian Sarabia said he feels “as if space is within reach despite its physical distance.” He also noted how he discovered that even people from different disciplines can contribute to help the country move forward.
Alexandra Arugay, also a UPIS student, said that with the college entrance exams coming, this experience has helped solidify what she wants to become: an engineer for space (initiatives).
“After speaking to the astronaut, especially as a STEM (or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic track) student, obviously I got inspiration as to what I want to be in the future. It?s so inspiring, not just for me, but for the Philippines as it develops its space programs for the future,” Arugay said.
Ermie Bacarra, chief of the human resources and institution development division of DOST?s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development, was elated on the success of the live contact. She also looked back on how the Philippine space initiatives were initially formed, and what has been achieved since then.
“Space is not actually that far,” she said. “It’s getting [nearer and nearer to us].”