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This Filipina Physicist Is A Step Closer To Her Dream of Becoming An Astronaut By Working At The ESA

Gwendolyn Pascua talks about her life events that led her to become a ground controller of Biotesc a user-service operation center of the European Space Agency

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Ever since she was young, Gwendolyn Pascua was always fascinated with space. Growing up in Tabuk City in the province of Kalinga in the Philippines, she used to collect photographs of astronauts back when she was in grade school, and when asked by her mother if she wanted to marry an astronaut, she replied with “No, I want to be an astronaut.” She then moved on to be in Science Fairs in her elementary and high school days.

Several decades later, and she is now working as a ground controller at the Biotechnology Space Support Center (Biotesc) in Lucerne University in Switzerland, one of the seven user-service operation centers of the European Space Agency, working closely with Astronauts and being just one step closer to her ultimate dream of becoming one.

Pascua first started her career by graduating from the University of the Philippines, Diliman in 2005 with a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Physics. She then moved on to pursuing a Master’s degree in Physics at the same university, and soon she was accepted to apply for master’s degree courses at the Universite de Rennes I in France and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat in Munchen, Germany in 2008.

Source: HSLU

She then spent her first semester in France and her second semester in Germany until she finished her degrees in 2009. She then completed her Thesis at the Paul Scherer Institute in Switzerland, which is where her thesis supervisor, Dr. Hubertus Luetkens, offered her a job at the institute.

She finally moved on to pursuing a doctorate degree in Experimental Physics at the University of Zurich on May 2014, in which she wrote a thesis about Magnetism and Superconductivity.

She finally landed a position in the operations management team of Biotesc (earning a project manager certificate beforehand).

She is now married to a Frenchman named Demoulin. Her job involves “Preparing [the astronauts’] experiments and procedures starting from planning their experiments, coordinating with scientists and payload developers. We do all tests necessary on the ground before they are sent to the ISS (International Space Station),” explains Pascua. She makes sure nothing is left to chance, and thinks of all the possible scenarios are considered and simulated before a billion dollar mission is launched. Space projects should be precise and thorough,” she said.

She can also speak fluent Mandarin, as she and her friends were obsessed with the Taiwanese boy band F4, which she said would come in handy, as the ESA could possibly collaborate with the Chinese for future projects. She can also speak French and German, and is currently learning Russian.

Even with all the international prestige and glory, Pascua remains a Filipina woman from Kalinga at heart, recalling the times she was exposed to Kalinga customs by her grandfather, who was a member of the Madukayong tribe. Even with a job that requires her to reach for the stars, she would never forget the small town in which she came from.

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Cielo Santos

Engineer. Writer. Artist. Gamer. Musician. She dreams of building a time machine and help kittens take over the world. Is secretly the pink power ranger in real life.


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  1. But why can’t our news show / media write about a REAL Filipino Test Pilot?

    Prospero ‘Paco’ Uybarreta

    Paco Uybarreta is a part-time/distance Ph.D student with the UND Aerospace Sciences Doctorate program.

    Paco is an Experimental Test Pilot for Scaled Composites. He plans and pilots elevated-risk envelope expansion, flying qualities, and initial performance testing of rapid prototype aerospace vehicles. He is Project Pilot for a new concept demonstration flight test program.

    Paco started his flying career in 1998 as a military pilot. He served in the US Air Force for 14 years as a T-37 and E-3 Instructor Pilot, Exchange Kiran Instructor Pilot to the Indian Air Force, and T-38, LJ-25, and KC-135/10 Experimental Test Pilot. He is a 2009 graduate of US Air Force Test Pilot School, where he flight-tested the NF-16, MiG-15, U-2S, and many others. At Edwards AFB, Paco was Project Pilot of ACTIVE STICK, KC-135 Guardian LAIRCM, and KC-135 Block 45. He was also the 2010-11 KC-X Source Selection Evaluation Experimental Test Pilot.

    Selected for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, Paco separated from active-duty military service to join Bombardier Aerospace in 2012. He was a CSeries and CRJ Series Engineering Test Pilot, flying envelope expansion, handling qualities, performance, propulsion, and avionics flight tests. Paco was also Project Pilot for CRJ Series sustaining and derivative programs.

    Paco has logged more than 4,200 total pilot hours. He has also logged more than 1,000 military instructor pilot hours, more than 450 combat hours, and more than 400 experimental flight test hours. He hold FAA ATP and CFII certificates single- and multi-engine airplanes.

    Paco is a recipient of the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the Aerial Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, and the Air Force Combat Action Medal. He was also named the 2005 and 2006 Pacific Air Forces Exchange Company Grade Officer of the Year, the 2009 Boston University College of Engineering Distinguished Alumnus for Service to the Community, and the 2010 Test Operations Field Grade Officer of the Year.

    Paco earned a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Boston University in 1998, an M.A.S. in Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle in 2007, and an M.S. in Flight Test Engineering from US Air Force Test Pilot School/Air University in 2009. He is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Aeronautics with Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus, teaching undergraduate aeronautics courses online.

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