A dream for young scientists of the country, incoming third-year student William Kevin L. Abran of the University of the Philippines Los Baños took a step forward for Filipino Physicists to have his experiment proposal conducted in the International Space Station (ISS).

Entitled “Rotation of ‘Dumbbell-shaped’ Objects in Space”, the proposal is among the six submissions chosen to be carried out in the ISS as part of the 2022 Asian Try Zero-G (ATZG) competition. The experiment is set to be performed by astronaut and engineer Koichi Wakata in December 2022. 

The Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) initiated the call for proposals for this year’s ATZG in the Philippines and selected five experiments to enter the final round of evaluation by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). According to JAXA’s point of selection, “tThis theme aims to systematically examine the behavior of rotating objects in orbit and the Dzhanibekov effect using two rigid bodies with different centers of gravity.”

Abran, with the supervision of the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA), developed the proposal, which entails dumbbell-shaped objects that could be spun about the longitudinal and along the transverse axis. Due to the two distinct moments of inertia, the experiment is not expected to result in the Dzhanibekov effect. 

The methodology of the experiment is illustrated below:

Original photo from PhilSA [Philippine Space Agency (philsa.gov.ph)]

Physically simulating these motions on the ground is challenging due to the constant application of force and the pre-determination of the center of the mass. In a free environment, like microgravity, however, these rigid objects should rotate continuously for a fair amount of time, making it possible to observe the long-term stability of the rotations.

The UPLB student continues to educate people about their experiment through a TikTok video.

“I’m very happy that many Filipinos are proud and, at the same time, curious about the experiment. It has been part of my advocacy to promote space science since high school, and this event somehow helped in reaching more people,” William said. “This achievement means a lot because it’s a unique learning opportunity. I hope to share later with everyone all this experience and knowledge gained.”

“Space science touches a lot of scientific fields. They often involve physicists, engineers, and mathematicians. However, space science also needs artists, creators, economists, and other disciplines. There are a lot of things to explore on Earth, even in space. So, stay curious, it will lead to your own discoveries,” he added.

Aside from Abran’s experiment, one of the proposals submitted by PhilSA for the final selection process was the entry of Joven M. Galliguez, another UPLB incoming junior. With the title “Uniform Circular Motion in Zero Gravity”, this experiment aims to determine whether a mass attached to a string will undergo circular motion when a force is applied.

(Francis Lance Leal, Julia Ann Giere, and Kernel Godwin Reyes)