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Entrepreneur soars 8km in aborted bid to be first Singaporean in space

SINGAPORE — Entrepreneur Marvyn Lim Seng described his third attempt to become the first Singaporean in space as a “big success”, despite his team having to abort the mission last Friday (May 31).

Entrepreneur soars 8km in aborted bid to be first Singaporean in space

Marvyn Lim Seng, pictured in his space mission gear in the central Australian desert, has vowed to continue with the quest to put the first Singaporean into space.

SINGAPORE — Entrepreneur Marvyn Lim Seng described his third attempt to become the first Singaporean in space as a “big success”, despite his team having to abort the mission last Friday (May 31).

“We’re sorry that we didn’t manage to get the first Singaporean into space for our country,” said Mr Lim, who was strapped in a tiny capsule for the launch. It gradually lost pressure until the mission was aborted about 8km above the earth’s surface as a result of a mishap during the launch.

“Ultimately, the attempt is more significant than the outcome. Our journey continues,” he said.

Mr Lim, 58, had used a helium-filled balloon, attached to a space capsule called Quantum 1 designed by his technology firm IN.Genius, to embark on the flight from a launch site near Alice Springs in central Australia.

The goal was to reach the Armstrong line, a point 20km above the earth’s surface, that is generally regarded as the edge of space. It was the firm’s third attempt to get into space.

Considering that the ground crew consisted of only nine volunteers, he said that the launch had been a “big success”.

“This (launch) verified all the key points (of the technology) and gave us a very strong validation. We are more confident of the system performance now,” said Mr Lim.

He said the capsule hit the ground during its launch, which eventually caused it to lose pressure.

“I first noticed (the capsule losing pressure) at around 3,000m above ground,” said Mr Lim, the founder of IN.Genius. “I wanted to continue, but my finger was on the emergency switch in case I lose consciousness.”

A parachute was deployed only when the capsule reached nearly 8km, as this gave the capsule enough clearance to land past the mountainous terrain in the area, said Mr Lim.

Mr Lim was unhurt after the capsule landed about 25km northwest of the launch point.

He said that the capsule was projected to cross the Armstrong line in 55 minutes if the ground impact did not happen during takeoff.

The project to take the first Singaporean to the edge of space has been in development since 2013. The first launch attempt in 2015 ran into delays when they failed to obtain a military grade component.

Last year, the planned launch in Australia was postponed due to adverse wind conditions along the flight path which could rupture the stratospheric balloon.

In 2015, the team successfully sent three lab rats past the Armstrong line and back alive. 

A GIANT LEAP FOR SINGAPORE

Looking ahead, the team will look at improving the capsule design to minimise impact during takeoff, said Mr Lim.

The team’s next attempt will depend on the available financial resources, said Mr Lim in response to TODAY’s queries.

He hopes that fellow Singaporeans will be willing to support this cause, by crowdfunding an estimated cost of S$800,000 for materials, manpower and operational costs.

The success of this project could enable the cost-effective testing of space equipment in near space, without having to undertake the costly process of launching rockets or satellites, Mr Lim had told TODAY previously.

“Through this (attempt), I hope we have earned enough credibility,” he said

“I hope people will believe in us that we are serious, and we have done our best.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story quoted Mr Marvyn Lim Seng as saying his capsule started losing pressure at around 3,000km above ground. This is incorrect. Mr Lim actually said this took place 3,000m above ground. We are sorry for the error.

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