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Features


Malaysian AXE-tronaut Rose ready for blast-off

When schoolchildren are asked “What are your dreams and ambitions?” you will hear many different answers: “I want to be an astronaut!” “I want to be Superman!”

However, when they are growing up many start to realise that the dreams they had would always remain impossible dreams. Ambitions to be Superman, astronauts and princesses were shelved and they carried on with life.

But is the impossible really unachievable?

We managed to interview Roshini Muniam, also known as Rose, a 27-year old postgraduate student from Universiti Malaya, who is also Malaysia’s representative at the AXE Apollo International Space Camp in Orlando, Florida. The plucky 27-year old is one of 60 candidates from around the world vying to be the first AXE-tronaut and go into space.

The beginning

Growing up in a small town in Banting, Rose would follow her mother around during weekends and each time they drove past the National Space Agency, Rose told herself that someday she would experience zero-gravity.

Fast-forward to June 2013, AXE’s worldwide search for the first AXE-tronaut was in full force and AXE Malaysia was looking for Malaysians to take part in the Malaysian AXE-tronaut Space Race. The winner of the Malaysian challenge would go on to battle contestants from around the world for the honour of being the first AXE-tronaut.

Embarking on the journey

The challenge was sponsored by AXE, a brand marketing body sprays for men, and that could be why most of the applicants were men. However, that did not deter Rose. The plucky lass checked for any gender-related conditions, and finding none, submitted her own application. “I like to try new things,” said Rose, “I am very adventurous and I like to meet people.” She also added that she had thought of just giving it a try at first but however took it seriously once she realised the possibilities that could arise from the contest.

Being the only female contestant amongst 14 other male contestants didn’t mean Rose got any unfair advantages, however. To get into the Top 5, all the contestants had to go through a series of challenges, from physical activities like swimming and scuba diving, and mental challenges like answering quizzes and building a home-made rocket. Contestants were also tested on their social skills.

“It was awkward at first,” shared Rose when asked about being the only female contestant, “But the AXE Space Race event crew members were very supportive and thoughtful and they helped me get adjusted.” Rose was the unfortunate victim of sexist internet trolls, but most of the male contestants were friendly, said Rose. “We had enough ice-breaking sessions and got to know each other a little more.”

The next leg

Rose is now about to attend the AXE Apollo Space Camp, where the three challenges are Take Off, a flight in a L-39 Albatross MKII jet that travels at twice the speed of sound; Zeo G, a parabolic flight that recreates the weightlessness of space; and Re-Entry, a centrifuge machine that simulates the same extreme G-Force astronauts are exposed to during landing.

Preparing by going swimming and diving to build up her stamina, she will need to stand out from the group the 60 hopefuls, of which only 22 will be chosen to blast off into the stars.

Rose is confident, however. The only woman in the competition, she beat the odds and the vicious attack of internet trolls to emerge the Malaysian representative, and she has this to say to other women who have lofty ambitions of their own: “Just go for it. I have a favourite saying that goes ‘Women are like tea bags; you'll never know how strong they are until you put them in hot water.’"

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