Space girls

SINGAPORE - Think space travel and you may get the image of Neil Armstrong taking his first steps on the moon.

Come Aug 9 next year, it is hoped that instead of Armstrong, it will be one of our own Singaporean adventurers out there in the vastness of space.

Mr Lim Seng, 54, plans to send the first Singaporean to space on National Day next year. The lucky individual won't be going as far as the moon but will reach some 20km up into the stratosphere.

The founder of local technology firm IN.Genius said he has pumped millions of dollars into this venture, which has so far seen the initial 150 or so space traveller hopefuls being whittled down to the current shortlist of 26. By the first quarter next year, only three will be chosen for the last stage of training.

"We aim to select those who are the best physically, with the best aptitude, as well as the guy with the most heart," said Mr Lim.

Three candidates caught our eye at a press conference hosted by Mr Lim at the Global Space Technology Convention (GSTC) 2014 yesterday, where members of the selection panel and a few of the candidates were introduced to the media.


Fluent and mature, it is easy to see why Cherie Lim (left) believes in her ability to become the first Singaporean into space.

But here is the surprising thing: She is only 15.

Many would baulk at the suggestion of sending a teenager into space, but the Tanjong Katong Girls' School (TKGS) student feels that her young age could form a bridge with future generations interested in the field.

She sees her journey so far as an adventure.

"I don't see the apparent danger (in going to space) yet, it's not so evident now. For now, it's much more exciting to be involved with this," she said.


Being born into a family of pilots inspired Miss Natalie Tan (middle), 19, to get her pilot's licence in 2012.

And being a woman, the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) mass communications student feels that she has a point to prove in the male-dominated aviation industry.

Said Miss Tan: "I definitely don't think this field should be limited based on gender. People know I really want to be part of this venture, I want to fly, so by showing by example that I am growing up to do what I want to do, I hope to be a model to others."

When asked what characteristics she possessed that could help her in achieving her goal, she replied with a laugh. "My friends describe me as being half a dude, plus, I'm very open-minded and very daring," she said.


Her parents used to take her to Changi Airport to watch planes take-off and land when she was a child.

"I idolise pilots and look to them as my heroes, being responsible for all their passengers while doing their jobs," said Miss Ng Si Ying (right), 21, an NTU business student.

Miss Ng, who received her flying licence three years ago, said she watches air crash investigation documentaries in her spare time to learn lessons from the past.

"The skies are very mysterious, and there's so much more to discover. When I read about the space project, I was really excited and wanted to be a part of it," she said.


His grand idea is to send the first Singaporean into space.

And Mr Lim Seng (right) plans to do it in a craft designed to resemble a hot-air balloon, or have a capsule-like configuration. "There are many ways to travel in space, it doesn't always have to be with rockets," he said.

Mr Timothy Kauffman, a former National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) engineer and CEO of TriVector International, which provides aeronautical engineering expertise to agencies like Nasa, believes Mr Lim's plan is a "perfectly reasonable venture".

Mr Lim also spoke briefly about his plan to build a fleet of similar capsule-like craft that can transport between four and six people to space for at least a couple of hours, before returning to Earth.

Said Mr Lim: "We have to prove that a country as small as Singapore can match the rest of the world. We also have to prove to Singaporeans we can do this."

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