They are on cloud nine. And justifiably so. They have earned a visit to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the prestigious space exploration agency in USA . When they land at the NASA headquarters in Washington in May, they would have rewritten history by representing a government school. The little scholars would also be breaking the glass ceiling for being the first generation learners from indigent families to make it to NASA.
Safa Maheen (std IX), Syed Ibrahim Ali, Muskan Tabassum, Feroz Ahmed (std VIII), Mahveen Mohammadi and Mohd Feroz Hussain (std VII) of Telangana Minorities Residential Educational Institutions Society (TMREIS) are besides themselves with joy as they eagerly look forward to the D-Day. Their project ‘TMREIS Fusion L5’ for colonisation of space has got the NASA nod and an invitation to take part in the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) to be held at Los Angeles from May 24 to 27.
“While students of corporate schools have taken part in this annual event, it is the first time that students of a government school have been selected by NASA,” says Raghunandan Kumar, founder secretary, Planetary Society of India. He is instrumental in igniting students’ interest in space science through star gazing sessions. For the last three months his organisation is holding astronomy classes in all the 40 TMR schools in Hyderabad.
Why should we think of space habitats at all? “In the event of apocalyptic events like catastrophes, asteroid strikes, climate change and epidemics, survival on earth will become impossible,” the students voice the concerns of noted cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, who strongly advocated terraforming.
The students know all about the experts views on Martian colony and the efforts to design possible habitat prototypes. “But the timeline and the cost of turning Mars into greener and habitable are prohibitive. The best option is aiming for Lagrangian point 5 (L5) which is stable and considered best for space settlement,” says Ibrahim Ali.
Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning. These students never tired of poking and prying with purpose. And this has paid off with their concept paper on building a self-reliant colony in space complete with design, material required, timeline (25 to 60 years) getting approved in the NASA Ames Space Settlement Contest. Now they have to make a poster presentation and scientifically explain their concept at the ISDC.
Interestingly, all the six students hail from poor families and have not seen any city beyond Hyderabad. They are naturally excited at the thought of flying to US, something they had never imagined, even in their wildest dreams. “My parents are very happy at this development,” says Tabassum, whose father is a car driver at Siddipet.
TMREIS secretary, B Shafiullah, is keen that the students put their best foot forward. He has requisitioned the services of Sadia Alauddin, academic consultant, to brush up the students on social graces and the right etiquette. “Look into the eye and introduce yourself,” she advises youngsters while giving tips on the right body language and handshake etiquette. Befitting the high profile event, the young students are being outfitted in suitable suits and blazers.
The students are likely to meet Buzz Aldrin, the second to set foot on Moon. The American is expected to attend the ISDC along with many well known persons, including Frank Drake, who propounded the Drake equation, Kathryn D Sullivan, former NASA astronaut, and Jeff Bezos, technology entrepreneur.
TMREIS authorities are also going in for an exclusive Robotics lab in Hyderabad in association with Lego Innovation Lab, Singapore, to provide a unique environment to enrich the learning process. Students are gearing up to display their skills in the upcoming Robotics League at Singapore.