In an open poll on a children entertainment channel’s website, of the six career options provided on it, visitors were supposed to pick their favourite one. Unsurprisingly, a majority of the votes went to the astronaut option. Doctor came in a close second followed by lawyer, engineer, artist and chef.
Taking that as a hint, Nickelodeon India decided to tie up with Asha Sundararajan and Dr Patricia Rieff, both certified NASA Space experts and launched their campaign, Young Astronauts. As part of the program, the channel has invited young minds to send them a 150-word essay, explaining why they want to be an astronaut. Five best entries will get to visit the Kennedy Space Centre (NASA).
Says Sundararajan, “In India we’ve been fairly streamlined when it comes to picking careers. But now we are becoming a lot more accepting. We want young minds to experience opportunities through this trip of NASA.”
In an ongoing attempt to spread awareness about space science, Sundararajan has been setting up mobile planetariums called the Discovery Dome in schools and villages around the state and country for a while now. And as part of this campaign, Nick India roped her in to do the same in malls around the city.
Nina Elavia Jaipuria, senior vice president and general manager, Nick India says, “We are trying to do away with the doctor-engineer syndrome. We’re not saying we’re going to make every kid an astronaut, we just want to show them a new gate since the exposure in this field is limited.”
In a matter of a week the channel has received over 1,200 essays from enthusiastic kids. “They are written so sweetly, though some were written by their parents,” says Jaipuria, in humour, adding, “Kalpana Chawla is mentioned in many letters.”
Over the next few weeks, about seven such Discovery Domes will be placed at places frequented often. Those picked for the NASA trip will get an opportunity to walk through the history of the Apollo 11 mission, meet astronauts, learn how a satellite is launched, experience zero gravity wall, 1/6th gravity on the moon and if they’re lucky, they may even get to actually watch a satellite launch.