Mexican student seeking help to participate in NASA space mission
Puebla, Mexico, Mar 21 (EFE).- Mexican student Omar Saldaña Penetro walks through the streets of the central city of Puebla looking for financial help so that he can achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut on an “analog” NASA space mission, albeit one that doesn’t leave terra firma.
Holding a sign, wearing a student space suit and carrying his backpack, he asks people he encounters to buy a ticket for a raffle drawing to be held April 7 or to give him a voluntary donation.
His goal is to collect 70,000 Mexican pesos (about $3,500, at today’s exchange rate) so that he can buy a plane ticket to Poland in April and then pay for his stay on board a ground-based NASA space station for two weeks.
He set out on this mission after being selected to participate in the scientific and medical research project on an “analog space mission” at the LunAres Research Station in the Polish city of Pila.
This was the team prize for winning first prize in the 2022 International Air and Space Program held last November at the facilities of the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The recognition allows the winners to send an experiment on board the MISSE-FF Module to the International Space Station and to witness the launch of that mission in December 2023, with its return to Earth estimated to occur in May 2024.
Omar told EFE that the first step in getting to the launch is to attend training in Poland in April, where he will try to attain the designation of “analog astronaut” and learn how to gather information from studies of Saturn and Mars.
“I’m a person who is having the chance to be the first analog astronaut in Puebla, and so to try and achieve this nice dream I’m collecting money through a raffle which I’m holding along with my family,” he said.
With an eye toward getting the money he needs, given the short time remaining until he has to depart for Poland, Omar is also giving talks at elementary schools where he accepts voluntary donations.
“I’m looking to represent Puebla in aerospace research and planetary exploration, and so I’m offering (raffle) tickets at 100 pesos each (about $5),” he said.
He added that on April 8 he must leave for Poland and he hopes to be able to do so with his two teammates from other Mexican states, who are also trying to accomplish their dream of participating in the project.
Omar invited anyone interested in supporting him, via donations or by buying raffle tickets, to visit him on his Instagram accounts @omarpenetro or @elchicocosmos.