The Philippines needs to focus on space education, according to eminent Filipino astrophysicist Dr. Rogel Mari Sese, project leader of the National Space Development Program and focal person for the Philippine Space Science Education Program under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

An aspiring astronaut at the age of five, Sese shared his knowledge and thoughts on space science during a forum organized by DOST’s Science Education Institute (SEI). The forum, dubbed as TEC Talk: Space Science, was held at the UP Diliman-National Institute of Physics (UPD-NIP) on July 27, 2016.

Space science has its applications in agriculture and environment, meteorology, disaster risk reduction, national security navigation, communications, and exploration and discovery. However, various challenges have led to the country’s failure to mount a space program.

In his talk titled “Reaching for the Stars: How Do We Start the Journey?” Sese emphasized the need to prop up space education in the Philippines. He also cited some of the challenges in mounting a space program in the country, namely, lack of public awareness about space science, lack of exposure in the basic educational system, space science not being a conventional choice of study for students, lack of universities offering space-related courses, and lack of financial support for students.

“Knowledge of space science gives us a better sense of the world,” said another eminent Filipino physicist Dr. Ian Vega, “and we deserve a science policy that is aware that our greatest resource is our people.” Vega, head of the gravity group of UPD-NIP’s theoretical physics group, added that knowledge of space science leads to progress.

To address the challenges, Sese suggested that plans should be in place to encourage students to pursue STEM careers, push for a greater integration of space science into the basic education curriculum, get more universities to offer space-related degree programs, train teachers and educators in the field, and develop culturally appropriate educational materials on space science in English and local languages. 

Strengthening outreach activities to increase public awareness of space science and establishing strong regional collaborations and linkages are also important, Sese emphasized.

Currently, Sese and the National Space Development Program team are engaged in talks with both the public and private sectors for the development of space industries, possible investment opportunities, and potential collaborations, among others.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Space Science Education Program has various activities such as telescope viewing and the National Water Bottle Rocket Competition where winners get to compete internationally.

“Even though we are lagging behind, we are doing what we can,” Sese remarked, “so you guys can benefit from it.”

Aside from Sese and Vega, TEC Talk was also atended by Dr. Jose Perico Esguerra, Professor II and coordinator of UPD-NIP’s theoretical physics group; and Dr. Apollo Arquiza, a DOST Balik Scientist who worked at the International Space Station, studying foods for space habitats. The forum was attended by DOST scholars from UP Diliman, Ateneo de Manila University, and Rizal Technological University.

Part of the National Science and Technology Week celebration, TEC Talk was a TED Talks type of forum where renowned Filipino scientists shared their experiences to entice DOST scholars to work in space science and be part of the country’s efforts for national progress.

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Dr. Rogel Mari Sese of the National Space Development Program 

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Dr. Ian Vega, gravity group head of UPD-NIP’s theoretical physics group

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Dr. Jose Perico Esguerra, professor and theoretical physics group coordinator of UPD-NIP and DOST Balik Scientist Dr. Apollo Arquiza who studied foods for astronauts at the International Space Station. (Photos by Teddy R. Amante, S&T Media Service, DOST-STII)

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