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Indian-origin astronaut Shawna Pandya's shares her love for Mumbai and space

Updated on: 29 April,2018 07:46 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Kusumita Das |

Pandya is now part of a show on Sony BBC Earth titled Astronauts u00c3u00a2u00c2u0080u00c2u0094 Toughest Job In The Universe

Indian-origin astronaut Shawna Pandya's shares her love for Mumbai and space

Shawna Pandya
Shawna Pandya

While the world is already counting Dr Shawna Pandya in the league of Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams, the lady in question feels it's all "a bit premature".

Canadian scientist and astronaut, Dr Pandya, is known for her work as part of Citizen Science Astronaut (CSA) candidate with project PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere) and PHEnOM (Physiology, Health and Environmental Observations and Microgravity) that she has been pursuing for two years now to understand several aspects of outer space, ranging from cloud formation to physiology and microgravity. She was one of the two candidates to be shortlisted from 3,200 people enrolled in the CSA programme.

While she has been working extensively in the field of outer space, and has in the past even worked with NASA, she clarifies that there has been "no announcement, flight assignment or selection of missions" [scheduled to take flight] yet. They will soon head off to a Mars simulation for two weeks though, that will help them prepare better for the mission, as and when it happens.

In a telephonic interview from Canada, where Dr Pandya is based, she tells us, "We are still developing our science and our mission. Our programme has done a phenomenal job of recruiting great candidates regardless of gender, ethnicity and country of origin. In fact, India has better representation in PoSSUM now. It is interesting that there is so much international representation in space programmes. It's not a competition to say, 'I will be the first such and such...' It's only about working with the passion and excitement."

Pandya is now part of a show on Sony BBC Earth titled Astronauts — Toughest Job In The Universe. Ask her what makes her job the toughest and she says, "I think everyone is serious and passionate about their job and consider it the toughest in the universe. This job, however, requires a tremendous amount of dedication and time. It's team-based and there is much risk involved. You cannot afford to let anyone down and that really raises the stakes."

Ever since she was a child, Pandya had been fascinated by space. "I remember when I was in grade seven, I'd read books on astronomy and the universe. I think that's where it all began for me," says the 33-year-old, who works as a general physician. When it comes to the areas that she has dabbled in, it's an extensive laundry list. From a black belt in Taekwondo to baseball, to motivational speaking, to walking the ramp and crooning as an opera singer, Pandya seems to have done it all. Ask her how does she pack in so much, and she says, "When I am asked this, I tell people, 'relax, I'm not doing all this in the same 24-hour period'. The trick is to prioritise what you do with your time, line up goals, set deadlines for yourself and act accordingly."

Pandya shares a deep connect with Mumbai and tries to visit the city once every five years. The last time she was here was last February. "I have most of my extended family here, my uncles, cousins and up until recently, my grandmother. There's no other city in the world like Mumbai, for me. There's so much going on here all the time but there's always something that comes out of the constant commotion. This city is always home away from home for me."

Also Read: Virender Sehwag Pays Heartwarming Tribute To Astronaut Kaplana Chawla

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