Space travel should be accessible to more people: Swati Mohan

Swati Mohan   | Photo Credit: Joby Cherian@Chennai

Swati Mohan, an Indian-American aerospace engineer who led the guidance, navigation and controls operations for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, expressed hope that the advances being made in space tourism would make space travel accessible to more people.

To a question on recent trips of billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos to space during an online talk organised by the U.S. Consulate-General Chennai as part of its “Diaspora Diplomacy” series on Wednesday, Ms. Swati compared the recent events with the nascent stages in the evolution of air travel.

She said while air travel remained accessible to only a few people in the early days, the subsequent growth in the industry and technology made it an integral part of travel for most people.

“I would love to see space tourism doing the same for space travel,” she said and added that it could accelerate technological advancements, thereby making exploration of space not limited to a few but an activity that many could participate in. “It is something to see the world from outside of it. It changes our perspective. The more we have that change across society, the more it will help us to take care of our planet better,” she said.

She said although she was raised in the U.S., she had a strong connection with India.

To a question on whether she faced any discrimination because of her Indian identity, she said that being a woman in a man-dominated field was more challenging than being an Indian.

Highlighting that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where she worked, had people from diverse backgrounds, she said she never faced any issues because of her Indian-American identity.

However, she said there were a few instances of people making insensitive comments during her growing up years.

She said that though she was a Hindu, she did not try to connect science with her spirituality. She said while spirituality to her was about internal reflection, science was about understanding what was around.

Dr. Swati recollected that though she wanted to be a doctor at a young age when space related things were her hobby, she subsequently realised that space was her true passion.

She stressed on the importance of seizing and creating opportunities to realise one’s dreams.

She said that ISRO and NASA had collaborated in the past and expressed hope that the collaboration would continue.

Judith Ravin, U.S. Consul-General, Chennai, spoke on the Indian diaspora and the key role played by Indians in many fields in the U.S.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 6:58:38 AM |

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