Though we have yet to see a Filipino launched into outer space, many have been making us proud with their groundbreaking contributions to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the independent US agency responsible for space research and the civilian space program.
To help mark Asteroid Day this June 30, here are five Filipinos who have shown us that with hard work, innovative ideas, and a can-do attitude, anything is possible—including working in space-related careers! (Read: Three female astronauts who’ll inspire you to go after your dreams)
Josephine Santiago Bond
Head of the Advanced Engineering Development Branch of NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center
A graduate of the University of the Philippines’ Electronics and Communications Engineering program, Josephine was taking her Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering at South Dakota State University in 2003 when a teacher suggested she take a summer job at NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida. That summer job led to an internship, which led to a full-time job. Since then, the Filipino electrical engineer has been leading a team of engineers and interns, providing support for exploration, research, and technology across the agency.
“My leadership position also points to how NASA values diversity and practice of inclusion on a daily basis,” Josephine says. “I always feel that I am valued, not only for my engineering and leadership skills, but also as an Asian American and as a Filipino American, who brings a unique set of experiences and ideas to the table every day.”
Angelita Castro Kelly
Earth Observing System (EOS) Science Interface Manager and Mission Operations Manager (MOM), NASA
The first woman and Filipino assigned to such designations in NASA, Angelita was in charge of ensuring that three EOS missions (each with a satellite designed to measure land, water, and atmosphere) fly together safely in accordance with established guidelines. To make this happen, Angelita worked closely with engineers, ground system developers, and scientists from the US and partner countries. Together, they developed specifications for a control center that would send commands to the satellites, and a ground system that would capture and process data from the instruments. (Read: UP graduate now set to become Philippines’ first gravitational physicist)
“One’s success is usually attained due to a larger team of people that work cooperatively with each other in order to reach their common goal,” said Angelita, who passed away from complications due to lupus in 2015. “Any success that I’ve been fortunate to experience is the result of not only my hard work, but of the people that I work with.”
In a 2013 competition conducted by the Axe Apollo Space Academy, Chino was one of 23 space cadets chosen from over 28,000 international candidates to fly to space in the proposed XCOR Lynx—a rocket-powered spaceplane. Though the flight, which was scheduled for 2014 or 2015, never pushed through (the company sponsoring the plane declared bankruptcy), Chino continued to reach for the stars. He’s now a licensed commercial pilot. (Read: Meet the Filipino Pilot Who Bravely Flew Pope Francis through a Storm)
“You can’t give up just because things didn’t go as planned,” the Filipino astronaut wrote on Instagram. “You just have to keep pushing through whatever obstacle life puts in front of you.”
Jose Mari Tuason
Winner, “Breakthrough, Innovation, and Game-changing (BIG) Challenge” hosted by NASA
When NASA asked students to come up with creative ways to help increase the lift-to-drag ratio of its Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) in 2016, Filipino Jose Mari and his teammates from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign presented “a combination of moveable mass and cable system, which morphed the HIAD shape and provided it with direct lift control,” said a report on nasa.gov.
“First place! I still can’t believe we did it!” said the aerospace engineering major on Facebook.
Dr. Josefino Comiso
NASA Emeritus Scientist
Dr. Josefino Comiso, who joined NASA in 1977 as part of its Earth Sciences Division, and was a senior scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Facility for many years until his retirement, is noted for his extensive research on the decline of the Arctic sea ice cover due to global warming. Among his many accolades is the prestigious NASA Exceptional Achievement in Science Medal, which he received in 2013.
“I find many young Filipino professionals and students very talented and resourceful,” he told phl-microsat. “If they focus on specialized fields and get enough funding to do their work effectively, I think they can make many significant contributions to the advancement of scientific knowledge.”