Chino Roque will be the first Filipino astronaut to fly into space.
The 22-year-old psychology graduate from De La Salle University in Manila bested 28,000 auditionees from all over the Philippines and will join 21 others from 60 countries for a travel to space via XCOR Aerospace Lynx Aircraft in 2014.
Roque, also a crossfit coach, was actually a replacement for Air Force pilot Lt. Mario Mendoza Jr., who withdrew from the competition, citing conflicts in schedule. After a series of interviews, he found himself back in the game with two other Pinoy candidates Evan Ray Datuin and Ramil Santos.
Roque, Datuin, and Santos underwent intensive astronaut training at the AXE Apollo Space Academy (AASA) Space Camp in Orlando, Florida. The training included physical tests like zero gravity (parabolic flights to experience total weightlessness), air combat (aerobatic maneuvers on the cockpit of a fighter jet), and G-force (interactive blast off experience).
In an interview, Roque said he feels sad for his friends Evan and Ramil but respects them for their efforts.
Asked about his edge among other finalists, he said it lies in his "never-give-up type of attitude."
[Photos from AXE Philippines]