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PhilSA’s ‘LIFT OFF! Women in Space’ highlights women’s role in space sector

In commemoration of this year’s World Space Week, the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA), together with the US Embassy, launched LIFT OFF! Women in Space. Held via Zoom last October 4, the webinar underscored the contributions of female scientists, astronauts, engineers, and entrepreneurs to the space sector. 

Victory through harmony

The webinar covered a number of inspiring narratives from women in the space industry, among whom is Engr. Jo Santiago-Bond, the chief of Kennedy Space Center’s Safety and Mission Assurance Institutional Division. As a safety engineer, she was in charge of ensuring explosive, range, and construction safety—emphasizing that safety, alongside integrity, teamwork, excellence, and inclusion, is one of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) core values.

In her 17 years at NASA, she designed thermal control and launch release systems and contributed to notable projects such as the Ares I-X and the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer. Aside from her own skills and determination, Santiago-Bond also attributed her projects’ success to teamwork and collaboration. 

Life of an astronaut

The webinar also showed a pre-recorded video from former Japan Space Exploration Agency astronaut Naoko Yamazaki. Her video was in a question and answer format, with the questions coming directly from Filipino youth. The topics ranged from the food that astronauts consumed aboard the International Space Station to the “probable” events inside a black hole. In the end, the former astronaut fed not only the curious minds of the featured children but those of the webinar’s attendees as well. 

A connected universe

The third talk was led by Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom, the chief executive officer and co-founder of the New Zealand-based company SpaceBase. She emphasized the key points she learned upon entering the space industry: knowing your passion; dreaming and thinking big; and building your network. Through these realizations, she was able to spearhead SpaceBase’s vision to “democratize access to space for everyone”. 

SpaceBase fulfills its mission by offering education and entrepreneurial assistance to those who are looking into pursuing a space-related career. These include—but are not limited to—training workshops, outreach programs, challenge competitions, and startup mentorships. As an entrepreneur, Paat-Dahlstrom considers networks vital in the commercial world. She stressed that opportunities would not have happened without the “relationships and people she has met throughout the journey”.

For the final talk, PhilSA’s very own Chief Science Research Specialist, Shielo Muta, shared her participation and accomplishments in PhilSA’s satellite mission control and operations. Her work included the assurance of safe satellite functionality; daily mission and payload operations; and orbit and attitude control. She was also among the brilliant minds who materialized the Philippine microsatellites Diwata-1 and Diwata-2, and the soon-to-be-launched Multispectral Unit for Land Assessment satellite, which will be tasked to monitor terrestrial resources. 

By Cielo Bagnes

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