Science

Reaching for the stars

The panel (L-R Iya Whiteley, Chris Hadfield, Kevin Fong) inside the German Space Agency, to perform their astronaut selection tests

The panel (L-R Iya Whiteley, Chris Hadfield, Kevin Fong) inside the German Space Agency, to perform their astronaut selection tests   | Photo Credit: Jodie Adams

Dr Shawna Pandya, speaks about her role as a citizen-scientist and why being an astronaut is the toughest job in the universe

Ever since she was a little girl, Dr Shawna Pandya dreamt of being an astronaut. “I remember going camping with my brother as child, and we used to look up at the night sky and observe the Milky Way. I was so fascinated by space that I read everything about it, and used to carry books on Astrophysics wherever I went.”

Though Shawna is a medical practitioner, and is at present working as a general physician , her dream of becoming an astronaut never left her. With characteristic determination and commitment, she pursued it by getting her Masters degree at the International Space University, France, and interned at The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)-Johnson Space Centre.

“There I met legendary astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station, Dr Chris Hadfield, who is also associated with Sony BBC Earth’s show Astronauts- Toughest Job In The Universe”, says Shawna, who is a black belt in Taekwondo and is a motivational speaker.

Shawna agrees that being an astronaut is indeed a tough job that requires “both physical and mental fitness. You also have to have presence of mind to deal with any situation.”

As a citizen-scientist, Shawna is involved in two projects. PoSSUM ( Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere), which looks at the effects of global warming from space by observing rare cloud formations in the upper atmosphere, in which Shawna is working on Space medicine. She is also working on Project PHenOM (physiological, health, and environmental observations in microgravity) which will conduct cross-disciplinary research, and as an aquanaut with Project Poseidon, to further explore the oceans and create a record of spending the most days under the sea.

There will be a four-hour marathon of Astronauts: Toughest Job in the Universe on June 16, 11 am to 3 pm, on Sony BBC Earth, which follows the story of 12 individuals who undertake a demanding training regime to become an astronaut.

The candidates take on various challenges, including surviving the forces of a simulated space launch in a centrifuge and a ride on-board the infamous ‘vomit comet’.

The participants are assessed throughout the show by a doctor, a psychologist and Chris Hadfield.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 2:47:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/reaching-for-the-stars/article24163220.ece

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