FIRST FILIPINA ASTRONAUT NOW TRAINING IN RUSSIA

MANILA, May 29, 2004  (STAR) By Alma Anonas-Carpio  -  The first Filipina space cadet is now in Russia and she is preparing to rocket to the International Space Station orbiting Earth in July.

Capt. Irene Mora, a commercial pilot by profession, arrived in Russia last week for the rigorous training she must undergo to be part of the crew that will spend a week on the International Space Station and journey to Mars.

Mora flies on this new space mission as part of the Russian contingent in July.

Addressing a press conference at Russiaís Space Center, Mora said that while the process for her trip to the Red Planet has been slower than expected, she looks forward to the trip.

"The reason Iím doing this is definitely for educational purposes," Mora said in an e-mail to The STAR, adding that she wanted to become the youngest person to travel in space ó not just to fulfill her childhood dream, "but also to inspire other young people to become the next generation of space explorers."

Once on the space station, Mora will interact with students by shortwave radio and the Internet, she said. "I want to share my interest in science and mathematics, my two favorite subjects during my school days," she said.

In seeking her fortunes out in space, Mora said she is reaching out to the people back home: "I want inspire people to look at their career opportunities and increase the interest of ordinary people in traveling into space."

Mora said she hopes her trip would open the door for other non-professional space travelers and help make the case for space tourism.

"Eventually," she said, "everyone will have the opportunity to travel into space."

The United States National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) was initially cool to the idea of non-professional astronauts visiting the International Space Station, particularly with the international project still under construction.

Mora went to the edge of space in 2000 after she applied and qualified to be a civilian participant in the NASA space program. She is considered one of the best skydivers in the world and has completed the rigorous training for space cadets.

She is now undergoing more rigorous training in Russia to prepare for her next and more demanding space journey.

Here at home, Mora serves as part of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary Unit by conducting air search and rescue missions using her Cessna seaplane.

Born, raised and educated in Sacramento, California to Filipino parents, Mora rescinded her US citizenship and chose full Philippine citizenship. The Philippine flag is sewn on her flight suit, resting right above her heart.

In a related development, a Russian Progress cargo carrier was launched Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to bring supplies to the International Space Station crew, NASA reported on its website, www.nasa.gov.

The Russian cargo carrier is bearing 2 1/2 tons of cargo ó food, fuel, water, equipment and spacesuit gloves for both crewmembers, Commander Gennady Padalka and NASA Science Officer and Flight Engineer Mike Fincke, who are in the second month of a planned six-month mission.

The unpiloted Progress 14 reached orbit 10 minutes after launch and deployed its solar arrays and navigation antennas. It docked with the Station at 9:55 a.m. Thursday.

The new Progress carrier now occupies the aft port of the stationís Zvezda Service Module.

Its predecessor, Progress 13, was undocked from that port Monday at 5:19 a.m.

With a load of trash and station discards aboard, it was commanded to move to a parking orbit where Russian engineers will do 10 days of tests aimed at developing methods for future Progress carriers to conserve propellant.

Progress 13 will be removed from orbit on June 3 to burn up in the atmosphere.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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