VANMITHA: MALAYSIA’S FIRST FEMALE ASTRONAUT? 

USM, PENANG, 2 January 2021 – A second-year student from the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) School of Aerospace Engineering, Vanmitha Athimoolam recently made the university proud when she was selected as a finalist representing Malaysia in the Career Astronaut Competition 2020.  

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According to the girl from Perak and who grew up in Selangor, this competition is organised by AdvancingX and there are 4 stages to go through in this competition before the winner will be sent to United States of America (USA) to undergo a 5-year astronaut training.  

Vanmitha, whose ambition is to become an astronaut said, it was her dream that encouraged her to choose the Aerospace field of study and ever since her childhood, being an astronaut was what she had aimed for.  

“I decided to choose Aerospace Engineering for my degree course while I was doing my Matriculation studies and I made sure that every course that I filled in the UPU application portal would lead me to my dream some day, along with USM being my first choice. With God's grace I got my first choice,” said the youngest child of M. Athimoolam and R. Jayanti.  

In referring to the competition, for now, Vanmitha can only hope and pray to God that she will pass the interview because the interview will be done by the Astronaut Selection Committee and it will be the turning point of her life. Not merely hoping, she is also preparing for the interview so that she can give her best and to believe in herself that she can definitely make it through. 

The recipe of Vanmitha’s success lies in the environment surrounding her. The environment at the USM Engineering Campus is very peaceful, especially in the mornings and evenings.  

“I always go for a walk or cycle around the campus to relax my mind. I only have a few friends and most of the time I will be alone. I love being in quiet environments more compared to a noisy one and the quietness of the environment there makes it the best. I just love everything about USM because of the course that I am taking,” she added. 

When giving her views on the future of Malaysia in this arena, Vanmitha emphasised that the Malaysian space industry is just starting to develop and can be regarded as an ‘infant’ in the development stage of the space industry compared to other neighbouring countries.  

“Since the global focus is now on new space technologies, it would be great if we (Malaysia) could focus on it more. Private companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are the new space players. It would be great to see the universities get together to organise national-level competitions such as the launching of low-altitude rockets, building nano-satellites for FYP (final-year project) purposes and encouraging students to take part in international competitions, all related to the aerospace field.  

“This will surely give them the knowledge and awareness about space and will ignite the spark of interest in space in them, and Malaysia needs more passionate young talents who are willing to learn and stand up stronger after every failure, rather than someone who would give up without even trying and who complains a lot,” said the girl who loves fruit juice and hates spicy food.  

Lastly, Vanmitha would advise the youngsters to not ever give up on their dreams or ambitions and to make use of the time daily to bring them a step closer to the dream that they had desired to achieve.  

“You will only fail when you stop trying. So, keep trying until you succeed. Every day when you wake up, you have two choices; either you work hard to live your dream or you live a life that is not even close to your dream with regrets,” she emphasised.  

Text: Hafiz Meah Ghouse Meah 

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