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Be the first Singaporean in space come 2015?

SINGAPORE — Some 60 applicants have signed up for the chance to be the first Singaporean sent into sub-space come 2015, but more are needed to ensure that only the very best are selected.

SINGAPORE — Some 60 applicants have signed up for the chance to be the first Singaporean sent into sub-space come 2015, but more are needed to ensure that only the very best are selected.

To widen the pool, the deadline to submit an application has been extended to the end of September, local technology firm In.Genius said yesterday.

The firm signed a Memorandum of Understanding in February with the Science Centre Singapore board and the Singapore Space and Technology Association (SSTA) to launch a Singaporean into Earth’s stratosphere from Singapore, more than 20km above ground.

Applicants must be Singaporean and hold a pilot’s licence. The current 60 applicants are aged from 15 to 60, and about 90 per cent are current or ex-pilots, many of whom worked for Singapore Airlines.

The three youngest are all women — Nadea Merchant, 15; Cherie Lim, 15; and Nicole Leong, 21. Ms Leong, who studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in America, said: “We have to get the younger generation interested, motivated and then, take up careers in the field.”

Cherie, who felt her lack of a licence was no obstacle, said she was confident she would be able to juggle training and school, if she is selected.

SSTA President Jonathan Hung cheered the three youngsters on, saying they are an “inspiration to the entire student population”, and adding he hoped their actions are a “wake up call” to youths to not discount such professions.

In.Genius Director Lim Seng did not rule out the possibility that young applicants could make the cut, saying it was down to the selection panel to decide. He also noted that it takes about a decade or longer for a country’s space capabilities to mature, more than enough time, he said, for the youngsters to gain enough expertise for later flights.

A selection panel — Mr Lim would only say it includes space professionals from the United States, Europe and China — will whittle down the applications to just six. The best two will be sent to Germany and Spain in the middle of next year to train.

He declined to reveal costs — which are currently borne by In.Genius and private investors — revealing only that the project is “very expensive”. He also did not reveal what sort of spacecraft would be used, or the exact location for the launch from Singapore.

Recovering the craft after its flight is also a big question, with the region’s busy shipping lanes, although Mr Lim said the return splashdown would most likely be in the South China Sea.

He said the project was on schedule to launch by August 2015. The eighth test flight will be conducted in Europe in September, followed by test flights that will include life-support systems.

Interested applicants can send in their CVs to ingenius.gospace [at] gmail.com.

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