"It is not enough to wish on stars... you have to reach for them," goes a quote on the internet.

Vanmitha Athimoolam, 20, is literally gunning for the latter.

The lass from Klang is a finalist in a global Career Astronaut competition organised by US company Advancing X, and hopes to be the sole Malaysian selected for a five-year programme, from which four winners will be chosen for a suborbital flight. Last year,only 18 successful applicants were accepted.

Speaking to Free Malaysia Today (FMT), Vanmitha said her interest in space exploration was sparked after watching the 2005 film Zathura: A Space Adventure.

"Zathura was the first space movie I'd ever seen, and when I saw what space looked like in the movie, it fascinated me. From then on, I had this curiosity about life beyond earth," she told the portal.

The aerospace engineering student is just one interview away from reaching for the stars. If she succeeds, Vanmitha must move to the US in July for five years to undergo five years of intensive training to test her physical and mental endurance.

Vanmitha recalled to the portal how her parents chalked her dreams of wanting to become an astronaut as a "phase", all those years ago, unaware of her steely resolve then.

"They told me I would need to study hard if I wanted this, and that's when I really began to take education seriously, because I needed to if I wanted to get where I wanted to go."

As high as her dreams were, Vanmitha has had her fair share of critics. For instance, many have told her that there is no future for space dreamers here, and urged her to pursue medicine or law, or become a teacher instead.

Her dreams were also almost dashed when she found out that NASA only accepted US citizens in 2017, until she found hope in the form of a local space NGO, who shared dreams similar to hers.

Gender Is No Barrier

According to Vanmitha, gender poses no obstacles for one to reach his/her goals.

"I’m sorry to say, but gender equality is not where it needs to be in Malaysia, there’s still a feeling that men are superior. Some people don’t think women can achieve what a man can.

"For me, and other women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields) in Malaysia, it’s time to recognise us and empower us to dream big," she told the portal.

Her advise for those dreaming big is: "your future is in your hands."

"Focus on yourself and your dream, and don't give up easily. You only fail when you stop trying."

Such an inspiring youth indeed.

Here's wishing all the very best for our very own "vaanmagal" Vanmitha to achieve her dreams of reaching the stars!

Source: FMT
Photo: FMT