New Delhi, May 20 (IANS) Not everyone gets a chance to live the life of an astronaut, operate space shuttles and rockets, and experience moonwalk but 23 students from different schools across India got this once-in-a-lifetime learning experience at a space camp in the US Space and Rocket Centre (USSRC).
Shantanu Gupta, a Class 12 student from DPS Sushant Lok in Gurugram, was among the 23 who experienced the unique leadership programme for two consecutive weeks at the USSRC in Huntsville, Alabama.
For the 17-year-old, meeting retired American NASA astronaut Robert Lee Gibson, who is said to have symbolically ended the Cold War with Russia after shaking hands with a Russian cosmonaut in space, was one of the most exciting experiences.
“We not only experienced the things related to space but also got a chance to interact with Gibson who has been to space a number of times. This enhanced our exposure.
“We had interactive and experiential sessions around rocket designing, coding, building, and testing; simulated astronaut training, shuttle missions and moonwalk,” Gupta told IANS.
Sharing his experience of the moonwalk, he said it was scary. “We were in the air and were attached to a string. The experienced was thrilling as well as scary for me.”
On the other hand, for 16-year-old V. Sharon Evangeline from Delhi, it was one of the best parts of the trip.
“We were hanging in the air. When you look at people floating in the air, it seems easy. But when you actually try to walk, it is very difficult. You don’t have much control over the body and a lot of energy is required to move,” Evangeline told IANS.
Instead, she experienced a lot of difficulty in flying a plane. “I crash-landed over 30 times before I took control of the plane.”
The Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy programme, between March and April, offered interactive technology, science-oriented workshops and team exercises to instil leadership skills among students.
There were 325 students from 35 countries which provided a cultural exchange to the students.
Gupta made friends with a lot of children from other countries. “I got to know so much about their lifestyle and festivals. The night time, when we got the chance to interact with each other, was as exciting as the daytime, when we got to experience the space life,” he said.
Recalling her experience, Evangeline said: “I liked how they put people from different countries together in one room and team so that we can get a chance to interact. We used to watch movies together, play games and discuss each others’ countries.”
Rohith Tirumalasetty from Hyderabad said: “The highlight of the programme was, by far, having the opportunity to make friends from all around the world. It was exciting to meet people who share the same passion for rockets, jets and space shuttles.
“On my team were students from Germany, Switzerland, China, Poland, Italy, France, and other countries. I learned so much about what typical teenage life is like across the world and even picked up a few phrases from each country. Teamwork is one of the most important lessons I learned,” said Tirumalasetty.
(Nivedita Singh can be contacted at [email protected])