S Weekly

Space is the place

24 Oct 2017 | 162 View

Space is the place

Thai student reaches for the stars

Last year, Teeramet Kunpittaya (Jern) was one of three lucky students who were given the opportunity to attend the US Space Camp in Alabama.

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Space is the place

Suwitcha Chaiyong

When you were a kid, did you ever imagine being on a rocket ship and blasting into space? Well, this goal might be easier to achieve than you realised. For the last couple of years, the US Embassy has teamed up with KMITL to offer astronaut scholarship programmes to Thais. Last year, Teeramet Kunpittaya (Jern) was one of three lucky students who were given the opportunity to attend the US Space Camp in Alabama.

The 17-year-old from Mahidol Wittayanusorn School said he applied to the programme because of his interest in science and technology and learning new things.

“Because of NASA, a lot of cutting-edge technology has been developed. It was an opportunity to see how the people there come up with all these advancements,” Jern said.

SPACE ODYSSEY

For the 10 days of Space Camp, Jern stayed at the US Space and Rocket Center. While marvelling at the space shuttles and rockets on display, he got to wear a spacesuit and learn about the workings of a spacecraft and the duties of an astronaut. He also worked with other international participants to solve problems through simulation and survival exercises.

“We had to find solutions to issues that might occur in space. For example, in  one mission, my team acted as controllers at a space station. Our task was to guide a ship in to land, but an earthquake at the station interrupted our connection. We had to find a way to re-establish contact.”

MOTHERSHIP CONNECTION

Jern was very excited to be at the camp and he enjoyed the challenging missions. But not everything went smoothly. At times, there was a language barrier. Jern often didn’t understand his teammates because they used vocabulary that he wasn’t familiar with. Another issue was that there were disagreements over the best way to deal with different situations.

“In the beginning, we quarrelled because we had different ideas on how to handle the missions. It took us some time to figure out what things each person was good at. Eventually, we learned to recognise each other’s skills and were able to work together much better as a team.”

SPACE LAB

Sometimes students feel that the subjects they study in school are just for exams. They don’t see how they apply to real life. But at Space Camp, Jern was able to use a lot of ideas that he’d learned in the classroom.

“I like science, especially physics. At the camp, I found that the knowledge I gained from school was useful. Even though I was only there for 10 days, it was inspiring and made me want to learn more,” Jern said.

THE SKY’S THE LIMIT

Jern’s time at Space Camp didn’t inspire him to become an astronaut. But he did learn a lot about himself. In particular, he discovered he was good at managing people.

“For one mission, I was the commander and had to assign each teammate his or her duties. Things went well because I knew their skills and how to manage them.”

But he doesn’t see himself as a manager in the future. Instead, he hopes to work with data.

“I like physics, which requires experimentation and managing data. I hope that in the future, I’ll learn to effectively gather and analyse information,” he said.