Saturday, October 6, 2007

From Up There...

Being at IITB is not amazing just because of academics but also the extra curricular activities on the campus for which dignitaries keep coming and we get to hear from them their experiences. Here's my latest nice experience:

Sunita Williams (Commander, US Navy), NASA Astronaut
Keynote Speech at Zephyr '07 [On experiences of her recent space journey on Atlantis]

Excerpts from her speech which made a mark on my mind...

- When you look at the earth from space it looks amazingly cool! You can even see the mountains and creeks under the surface of water. BUT you do not see any boundaries. Boundaries are what we have created and exist only on pieces of paper and in our minds. They are not really there.

- These boundaries in your minds are the only things that can stop you from what you can and want to do. I challenge you to shed all the inhibitions of races & genders and chase your dreams.

- Another interesting thing that you see is a thin blue layer protecting the earth. This is what we call the atmosphere. And from up there you realize how thin and fragile it is. I challenge you to take good care of it as it is our responsibility towards coming generations to hand them over a habitable planet.

- I feel when we send people to the outer space they should be representing the earth and not as citizens of a particular country. Our space suits / spacecrafts should have pictures of the earth instead of flags of the nations.

The question answer session that followed was pretty interesting not because it was dominated by queries from the aspiring children. An IT professional made a request not to entertain any requests of the Indian political parties who are trying to take advantage of her Indian origin! A nine year old even dared to request her hug on stage and she dearly obliged. She deftly answered all the technical queries from the aero – space engineers, had motivational replies to children’s doubts about the future and articulate replies to the press. I liked her presence on the dias and the way she kept her calm and replied to a question ‘is space continually expanding?’ with ‘many people in the front rows would be able to answer that better than me…’ . Some other anecdotes that interested me during the q/a session were:

- While landing back the spacecraft made screeching sounds. The co pilot said after seeing her expressions of concern “Don’t worry; I have landed both Discovery & Atlantis. Atlantis makes these noises while landing. It is nothing to worry about. ”

- “My perspectives have changed. Whenever I enter a room I now also see the ceiling and the remote corners which I never did earlier and try to imagine how much fun it would be to float in this space.”

At the end she reiterated her points of the boundaries and mentioned that the only thing she feels bad about is that she could not talk personally to people, which she wanted to do and would be making an annual trip to India to fulfill that.

Please do so. We will be obliged!!

[PS: Thanks Reddy for the pic who is still so much excited about seeing her face to face in the lift and got a chance to take the pic!]

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