A diminutive Lampang woman is set to go where no Thai has gone before after triumphing in a string of contests and camps to win a six-minute ride in space next year. Pirada Techavijit, 30, was at the King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang in Bangkok to help the university open its Ionosphere and GNSS Data Centre and to encourage Thai youths to study science.
A satellite engineer for the Geo-informatics and Space Technology Development Agency for the past five years, Pirada began her journey into space after earning a specialised master’s degree in embedded systems from Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique in Toulouse, France. Upon returning home, she prepared aggressively to win the “Fans of Apollo 13” television contest, knowing the top three finishers would qualify for a “trip into space” contest sponsored by Axe-brand deodorants and Space Exploration Corp. of the U.S. Pirada and her two male co-contestants trained with the Royal Thai Air Force and at a “space camp” in Florida, where she was selected as Thailand’s representative.
She told the media she believes she was chosen because of her science and engineering education, which both Thai men lacked. She is just one of 62 people worldwide selected for the ride into space above the Lynx Mark II sub-orbital aircraft. The flight will reach a top altitude of 103km and will cut engines for six minutes to allow her to float weightlessly, take photos and possibly perform a science experiment. Pirada will next undergo training in the U.S. before making her flight.