By Boots Felixberto
Washington, DC. – Chino Roque has his highest dreams come true, not only to be an astronaut, but the bonus of the being the first Filipino astronaut. In 2015, Chino Roque is expected to travel to outer space with 22 other people who are now the proud recipients of a highly most likely a once-in-a-lifetime dream and experience of traveling to space and back.
Last year, 2013, over 28, 000 Filipinos applied to the AXE contest, hoping to make the mark as the first Filipino astronaut. The Philippines was fourth on the list of countries with the most applicants, following the top three, United States (108,000), United Kingdom (80,000) and France (42,000). Tickets for the space flight is sponsored by AXE, a brand of male grooming products owned by the British-Dutch company, Unilever. AXE is marketed towards the young male demographics. Each space travel ticket costs about $95,000.
Early December last year, after the number of applicants had been very seriously dwindled down to more than 100 applicants from over 60 countries. Several screening tests to becoming an astronaut were set up consisting of mental aptitude tests, combat training in a fighter jet and zero-gravity flights, all meant to have the candidates prove themselves worthy of the highly coveted free space travel by Space Expedition Corporation, (SXC), a project by the makers of AXE. SXC manages space travel trips aboard the reusable XCOR Aerospace Lynx spacecraft. Lynx is the near future of space travel, as it is expected to begin flying customers in 2014 or 2015. Chino Roque said it has helped him a lot to focus on the task at hand to becoming an astronaut with the help of his training as a sports coach. “Calmness is a virtue most necessary in the game” Roque beamed. The final 23 were chosen after a yearlong competition and a week of astronaut training.
The XCOR Lynx is a sub-orbital horizontal take-off, horizontal-landing (HTHL), rocket-powered space plane being developed by the California-based XCOR Aerospace. It is designed to compete in the emerging suborbital spaceflight market. The concept had been under development since 2003, at a time, when a two-person suborbital space plane was announced with the name “Xerus.” Lynx Mark I is currently being fabricated and assembled.
Earlier, the La Salle Philippines Alumni Association and the Philippine American Foundation for Charities, amidst the celebration fun with pizza and drinks, set up a very warm reception for Chino Roque. Roque shared a lot of his personal experiences and thoughts such as bringing a rosary, the Philippine flag and a third secret item with him to space. The La Salle Alumni members, of course, wanted to make their historical mark and requested the fourth item he can bring to space is a green t-shirt commemorating the 20th anniversary of their alumni association. Roque’s parents, relatives and close friends were there to share merriment with the community and officers and members of the two organizations. Roque mentioned that when he comes back from the Philippines, he dreams of being a commercial plane pilot and set up an aviation school in the Philippines when he comes home from his space travel.
Down-to-earth, sporty, intelligent, young and handsome, Roque signed autographs and posed for pictures with everyone delighted to acknowledge his new celebrity status.