Indian-origin space scientist's foundation gives wings to passionate Indian students
Twenty-five-year-old Indian-origin space scientist Priya Patel has had an illustrious career working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) for interplanetary missions. While she aspires to become an astronaut, she's also set up an NGO in the US to "provide resources to young Indian students from low socio-economic strata to give them exposure to space facilities abroad."
The NGO has been named after Patel's grandmother
Patel set up Sharda Foundation—named after her grandmother—for passionate students. She also aspires to become an astronaut and the first Indian to reach Moon and Mars. She has a bachelor's in physics from Imperial College London and a master's in space sciences engineering from the University College London (UCL). Currently, Patel is pursuing a PhD from UCL in association with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Foundation could help students experience space cultures abroad
Speaking to The Times of India, Priya said Sharda Foundation aims to "bring talented and passionate Indian school students to a space agency facility abroad, either NASA or ESA (sic)." She said this would help students "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," she added.
Patel wants to share experiences with passionate Indian students
Patel says she is fortunate that her parents gave her this experience through their sacrifices as they moved out of India. Now, she wants to share the experience with those who are truly passionate about space but lack the resources to follow their passions. Patel was reportedly born in Kadi, Gujarat, and schooled in Gandhinagar before moving to London in 2005.
Patel is also training to be an aerobatic pilot
Alongside her high-flying ambitions, Patel is training to become an aerobatic pilot. On the other hand, she has reportedly been training in Bharatnatyam for over 12 years and has participated in various national and international performances. Meanwhile, her current project entails collecting atmospheric data from NASA's Perseverance Rover. She said it's a "dream come true."
Patel also worked on ESA's upcoming project
Patel's work with NASA included analyzing the data from the Mars climate sounder onboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Meanwhile, at ESA, Priya served as a systems engineer for an upcoming gravitational waves detecting mission called Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) to be launched in 2034. She is also a part of the "Rocket Women" team that empowers girls, especially Indians, to choose STEM careers.