Want to be in space? Search on for first Filipino astronautBy Karen Boncocan
MANILA, Philippines – Our love for travel has fuelled many a budget airline’s existence but for one Filipino the next destination will be unlike any other as it is not on earth.
By 2014, the Philippines will have had one person who has gone to outer space with the help of Unilever and American space travel firm Space Expedition Corporation’s (SXC).
This was in keeping with its tradition of coming up with daring projects, Gem Laforteza, Axe Philippines’ brand manager told INQUIRER.net in a recent interview. He said that they were constantly trying to outdo their past campaigns by looking for bigger and bolder ideas.
And this year, he said they have come up with what has to be their most ambitious event yet–sending the very first Filipino to space. This will be the first time a Filipino will get to travel in outer space and anyone above 18 years of age, regardless of gender, can join, he pointed out.
One lucky Filipino will be the “first ever to go to space… (as part of the) campaign called Axe Apollo Space Academy,” he said. The campaign promotes the brand’s newest line of products called Axe Apollo.
“We sometimes get carried away and this is one of those years. What we are launching globally is something that is very big–in line with our space-themed (product) Axe Apollo which has the tagline: leave a man, come back a hero,” said Laforteza.
But the chance to go to space will not be without challenges as the lucky Filipino who will get first dibs on space travel in the country will have to go through careful selection as well as the stringent tests and trainings, said Nikki Abella, Unilever PR and events manager.
Hero status back on earth
Whoever Axe Philippines’ launches into space and into celebrity status through this contest will have to withstand the selection process, she said.
The contest is divided into four stages: (1) sign up for the space mission at www.AxeApollo.com, (2) go through a series of challenges, (3) training at the Axe Apollo Global Space Camp in Orlando, Florida, and then (4) the selection of the winner.
Enlistment for the mission is not all that it takes to move on to the next stage as only contestants who get the top votes will be chosen, Laforteza said. Out of all the entries Axe Philippines will be picking 10,000 contestants to advance on to stage 2 of the campaign.
Performance is key at this point and those who outdo everyone else in the challenges will be flown to Florida for several months for three training missions sometime in December.
A panel of experts will select the contestant whom they deem best suited for space travel.
The chance to be onboard on the Lynx is special as it only provides seats for two, the pilot and the lucky winners of each of the 22 countries participating in the Axe Apollo campaign.
Who’s flying the spacecraft?
SXC, Unilever’s partner in this milestone campaign for space tourism, has been in the business for some time now and seeks to revive the wonder for space travel, Laforteza said.
“It’s made up of veteran pilots and people in aerospace industry who seek to promote commercial travel. To start a space exploration boom, it can’t be exclusive to the government, you have to open it up to the private sector,” he added.
The SXC team is composed of former Royal Netherlands Air Force commander-in-chief Ben Droste, ForceIndia Formula One co-owner Michiel Mol, veteran pilot Harry van Hulten and lawyer-businessman Maarten Elshove.
Simultaneous launch with global counterparts
Laforteza said that they were launching the campaign Thursday, simultaneously with their counterparts in New York which will be led by American astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the United Kingdom, Germany, The Netherlands, Russia, Turkey, India, Indonesia, China, Japan, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Canada, Brazil, Spain, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary.
“Why is axe doing this? We know women love heroes like Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, we see that and it inspired us to ask who are the biggest heroes out there? In space travel there is exclusivity, only 528 people have been to space. We’re adding another 20-30 people to that,” he said.
“We are always looking for something that we know guys will enjoy–something that’s new and fun, in keeping with the Axe personality. That’s what we do year in and year out,” added Laforteza.
Want to be the first Filipino to step into outer space? Visit the Axe Philippines’ Facebook account for details: www.facebook.com/AxePhilippines.
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