Mumbai: The third Indian-origin woman, after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams, is heading towards two space missions. Dr Shawna Pandya is an astronaut besides being a neurosurgeon, working as a general physician Canada’s Alberta University Hospital.
Born in Canada, the 32-year-old was one of two candidates shortlisted from 3,200 people after topping the Citizen Science Astronaut (CSA) program. She will accompany eight other astronauts in space missions slated to take off by 2018.
Pandya, currently in Mumbai to meet her family in their Mahalaxmi home, said being an astronaut has been a passion since she was a teen. But she would loved pursuing medicine. She is also an opera singer, author, international taekwon-do champion and even trained in Muay Thai with a Navy SEAL.
“If you prioritise your passions and commitments, it’s wonderful how much you can achieve,” she told.
Pandya said she will do experiments in bio-medicine and medical science. She is part of a project called Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere (PoSSUM), which will study the effects of climate change. She will also work on Physiological, Health, and Environmental Observations in Microgravity (PHEnOM), and is a prime crew member of Project Poseidon, a 100-day underwater mission at the Aquarius Space Research Facility in Florida.
Dr. Pandya has been spending her Mumbai vacation delivering motivational speeches to resident doctors and students. “On Tuesday, I met students from Lilavatibai Podar High School. The questions they asked me were brilliant, right from zero-gravity experiences to outer space.”
Pandya boasted about the tremendous potential her country India has. “When I talk to students, medical undergraduates, I realise they have the zeal to venture out, but aren’t always aware of the ways in which they can. All we need is to get acquainted with everyday developments in science, be resilient and always try to achieve something bigger.”