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Why We Need a National Space Agency

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by , 01-26-2013 at 10:08 PM (21577 Views)
(long overdue blog entry but found time to post it here now. This now appears as an article at PATAS.CO, Why We Need a National Space Agency? | Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society (PATAS). The entire text is actually too long to post here as a blog entry, so I will only post an excerpt. You can read the entire article via the link)

The mid-1990’s arrived and with it, a new need that would be demanded of from the academe—capable and qualified registered nurses, for deployment overseas. And once again, like the previous computer and IT education boom, all over the Philippines, the new phenomenon swept schools and institutions — universities and colleges felt a need to open (or beef up their existing) health sciences departments and colleges, to serve the needs of a multitude of young men and women who were adamant to become nurses due to the “demand” for nurses and equivalent or related health services abroad.
Looking back at all this, it seems that our local educational institutions are practicing some kind of “knee-jerk” reaction to the demands of the learning (or degree-wanting) public—there seems to be a kind of “11th hour” style hodge-podge pooling of academic resources to somehow come up with offerings that would be deemed “competitive” to the course offerings of educational institutions abroad. I would imagine that these last-minute efforts could have sometimes ended up with institutions and schools coming up with mediocre or ill-contrived programs that perhaps lack certain standardization protocols, such that they don’t effectively serve the needs of the learners well. This in turn could have led to actually jeopardizing their chances of graduates securing jobs related to the courses they took. This in effect, I believe led also to the beefing up of accreditation schemes and efforts which I observe were heavily implemented also during this period of our country’s educational history.

Now all of these wouldn’t really be much of a problem if elementary and high schools around the country also had undergone some kind of standardization process. I have to admit that I’m not much familiar with a history of the Philippine Department of Education’s efforts on standardizing elementary and high school education in the country, to really have a concrete say on the matter, but I am sure you are familiar with what I’m talking about when discussing about education standards in both elementary and high school, especially comparing public and private schools. It made one wonder if back then, an average Filipino high school graduate had a good chance of passing a college entrance exam, and then actually getting the course they wanted once they enrolled in local colleges and universities, esp. if their courses of interest lie in the two aforementioned fields (IT and nursing).
So how do we begin this effort? Although the obvious initial steps the country could make is to prepare its schools and institutions by beefing up science and engineering courses even further, there are also other ways that doesn’t have to directly involve the academe. One of these ideas is a nationwide campaign for the popularization of space travel and space exploration.

Already, several departments in distinguished Philippine universities plus private groups and individuals have already begun efforts on this avenue, even without prior motivation from the national government, primarily due to the fact that the people involved in these efforts are passionate about astronomy and space exploration. Dr. Rogel Mari Sese (standing center, photo above), the designated Focal Person for the Philippine Space Science Education Program, already has begun efforts in advocating thrusts in education towards appreciation and greater understanding of space science and space exploration, that would hopefully lead to papers and research projects that would focus on these fields. He has appeared on national television in several talk shows, showcasing basic concepts in physics and rocketry, for public awareness and in the hopes of getting young people interested in this field. This kind of popularization is along the lines of what I envision to be a sort of “reprogramming” of certain aspects of local media, especially of government TV and radio stations.

On October 10, 2007, Expedition 16 of the International Space Station launched via the Soyuz TMA-11, and with it, Malaysia’s first astronaut, Sheik Muszaphar Shukor. Shukor is a medical doctor (and part time ramp model), and one of four finalists in Malaysia’s national search for their first astronaut, done in the style of “Pinoy Big Brother”. The candidates were part of the Malaysian Ankasawan (spaceman) Program, designed to select the country’s first ever astronaut, a project spearheaded by the Malaysian National Space Agency (ANKASA). Shukor spent 10 days aboard the ISS, performing various experiments, including studying the growth of liver cancer and leukemia cells, and also conducted goodwill interviews in the aim of boosting interest in space sciences in his home country. I believe it would be refreshing to see a kind of TV programming that would aim to select the best and brightest that our country can have, instead of just the populace choosing people based on looks, talent and popularity on national television.

By boosting public awareness in space travel and space sciences, it is hoped that parents therefore, wouldn’t discourage their children in terms of selecting a college course after graduating from high school. I feel that perhaps, in our country, there had too many of the instances wherein a high school graduate who had a longing to pursue physics, engineering or even astronomy and astronomy-related courses, but were discouraged by their parents, the reason being that the courses he/she should enroll in are those that would provide a better chance of landing a job that is considered “in demand” at the time, i.e. in the field of computers, nursing, or marketing/communication (i.e. call center jobs), for a better and more stable economic future. I envision therefore, a series of national public awareness campaigns aimed specifically to de-myth the notion that astronomy or space-related sciences are “useless” or “economically unattractive”.
Now, if there are now indeed “baby steps” in the pursuit of popularizing space sciences in the country, such as those being spearheaded by Dr. Sese, what more if our other competent professionals in these related fields joined forces to promote the cause, and actually politicize the aim to put up a body that would be at the center of all these efforts? Good thing, the story of the struggle to put up a national body aimed at promoting the space sciences isn’t new. I was told by Philippine astronomer Bamm Gabriana that the space movement in the Philippines started sometime in 2005 and 2007. Dr. Edgardo Aban (now teaching at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam) organized the National Congress on Space Technology Applications and Research (NC-STAR). They made feasibility studies on making our own satellites and starting a space agency. Unfortunately, considering that at the time there was still very little reason and cause for such a body, the movement didn’t get the necessary funding and the effort fizzled. However, only very recently was the advocacy revived when Dr. Custer Deocaris (pictured above), the country’s only astrobiologist (Ph.D. in Chemistry & Biotechnology from Tokyo University), met Dr. Aban. Together they drafted a bill creating the space agency and submitted it to Rep. Angelo Palmones. House Bill 6725, to be known as the Philippine Space Act, was filed on Dec. 3, 2012 and got First Reading on Dec. 5, 2012.

So what are the key benefits to an initial effort in these fields? First and foremost, as Filipino amateur astronomer Armando Lee put it, “Science is the candle that lights up the darkness of ignorance.” The initial efforts should be tied up with arming the general populace with basic scientific concepts and principles aimed at improving public awareness of events such as natural disasters (i.e earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and typhoons), so as to improve their reaction and coping levels to such calamities that constantly plague our country. Hand in hand to this effort is the hope that the public therefore will realize how valuable science knowhow is, and thus be the first steps towards freeing their minds of mysticism and backward traditionalist thinking that is ungrounded and unscientific. I believe with space sciences as the beacon leading the thousand lights that aim to bring light and banish ignorance among our countrymen, the men and women of science in this country will be armed and equipped and inspired to carry the flame of reason and freethinking across our country.

The questions we need to ask, are we indeed ready for this challenge, are you willing to support the effort in coming up with a Philippine National Space Agency and contribute something to attain the goal?

We need this country to become interested in space exploration, and I believe the time to act is now.

gareb, Dorothea, sevmik and 1 others like this.


  1. kano's Avatar
    If PATAS suggests something, do the opposite for the good of the country. Don't trust the godless, they are ignorant.
  2. rodsky's Avatar
    "Don't trust the godless, they are ignorant." - Kano.

    And I suppose we should trust you, the god-fearing?
  3. edoy's Avatar
    kung naa gani space AGENCY basin ug mangayo napud na ug placement fee para maka lupad sa gawas sa kalibutan kay kasagaran sa AGENCY sa Pilipinas naa rabay placement fee....
    rayjevztech likes this.
  4. cliff_drew's Avatar site is not available
  5. harhar's Avatar
    Wala man gani tarong gamit ang PAGASA kini na nuon? Bitaw, unahon sa tarong corruption sa pinas.


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