Indian-origin space scientist gives wings to poor desi students’ space dreams | India News
Priya, who did her masters in space sciences engineering from the University College London in 2017 and is currently pursuing her PhD from the same university in coordination with Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a telephonic interview, told TOI that “the idea behind setting up NGO Sharda Foundation, named after my grandmother, is to bring talented and passionate Indian school students to a space agency facility abroad, either Nasa or ESA, to allow students to experience the space culture in various countries. I want to bring resources to my home country where there is ample talent and passion for space exploration”.
“My parents gave me these opportunities through the sacrifices they made as they moved out of India. I was fortunate enough to have this experience but now I want to ensure that such experiences are shared with those that are truly passionate about space, but do not have the resources to follow their passion,” the space engineer, who is also training to become an aerobatic pilot, told TOI.
Priya, who was born in Gujarat’s Kadi town and did her schooling from Gandhinagar before moving to London in 2005, earned her bachelor’s degree in physics from Imperial College London. Besides her space projects, she has also been “training in Bharatanatyam for over 12 years and participated in various national and international performances”.
The 25-year-old is currently working on collecting atmospheric data from Nasa’s Perseverance Rover, which landed on the Red planet on February 18 this year, to study the presence of water on Mars. She had earlier analysed data from Mars climate sounder on board Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) to conduct the Martian atmospheric research. “Working with Nasa on a fantastic mission (Perseverance) is truly a dream come true and I am happy to be representing Indian women in STEM,” she said.
Priya has worked at the ESA as a systems engineer on an upcoming gravitational waves detecting mission called Laser Interferometry Space Antenna (LISA), which will be the first space-based gravitational wave observatory that will be launched in 2034, and is also engaged in ESA’s Exomars rover that will be launched next year to measure water on Mars. “I am extremely lucky to be working alongside experts from all over the world from whom I draw inspiration for my work,” she said.
She is also passionate about STEM advocacy and is part of the ‘Rocket Women’ team, a team aiming to empower Indian, especially Indian girls, to choose a STEM career, along with providing support, encouragement and importantly a community.