Asteroid Day: Young space enthusiasts shine bright in Delhi’s skylight
On Asteroid Day (June 30), two members of New Delhi Space Society share what fuels their curiosity for asteroids. The young Delhiites also talk about their passion for the outer space and their dream to take humanity into the stars.
For many, tech billionaire Elon Musk has become a part of pop culture and our primary source of getting a glimpse into outer space, since breakthroughs into the unknown usually grab our interest. Same goes for the young minds in the city, who are dedicatedly making progress into the field of astronomy. On Asteroid Day (June 30), meet some of the Delhi-based space enthusiasts from a team of youngsters at New Delhi Space Society (NDSS) — a chapter of the National Space Society (US), an organisation that accredited this team of astronomy enthusiasts to operate in India.
“As a young boy, I was bitten by curiosity,” says Shiv Sethi, a 20-year-old, third year student of electrical engineering and computer science at University of California, Berkeley. Currently in his home town, he tells us, “My curiosity made me venture into wanting to learn more about space and enhance my knowledge.” He had won many awards at NASA-hosted competitions before he got along with his friends to establish NDSS.
Every iota of progress that humankind makes in the field of astronomy is worth its weight in gold. Sethi, talking about the significance of the day and their passion for all things space, adds, “An asteroid is an exceptional source of resource due to its mineral-rich qualities. We at the NDSS had asteroids at the centre of attention at one of our yearly held national competitions, the Spacetech. The challenge that we gave to all school students from around India was to design a system to start mining on asteroids. We chose an asteroid in space and asked the participants to work on technology that allows humans to optimise the resources on that asteroid. Some asteroids are rich in say gold or petroleum, thus, it is very useful for us to get our hands on it.”
Sethi’s peer, Ashvin Verma, 18, is the president of NDSS. An alumnus of Delhi Public School, RK Puram shares an interesting fact on asteroids. “While working on space missions and settlement proposals around capturing and mining asteroids, I discovered that there are asteroids very close to us filled with rare and precious resources, worth trillions of dollars. If you go a bit further out, some asteroids are worth more than the size of the world’s economy! These discoveries have convinced me that humanity still has a vast potential to grow and expand upward with the help of asteroids, and also encouraged me to hold events and competitions surrounding asteroids at NDSS,” says Verma.
Studying topics such as the asteroids, stars and just the space, in general, has given these young minds a focused perspective, which is evident in their thought process.They talk more about their ambitions and the thought behind setting up the NDSS, back in 2018. Their passion is not limited to just their love for space, they also put in the hard yards into research and development and continue on their quest to explore what is beyond. “We participated in the Nasa Lunar Loo Challenge and realised that the old space toilet designs did not provide sufficient provisions for women. Thus, we designed the toilets in such a way that they will be comfortable for women, especially when they are menstruating. We designed the product, ran simulations, worked on the physics and learned plenty out of it even though we didn’t win the competition,” shares Verma, who is all set to embark on a journey for his higher studies.
Sethi thinks about the time when they had started out. “If an Indian student doesn’t get the opportunity to work in space, I do not see the Indian space future as very bright. Over the last three years, we have seen students reach out to us just wanting to be a part of this (team) and that is what keeps us motivated. After gaining much exposure ourselves abroad, we realised there was a lack of accessible study material for the Indian students who had an interest in the field of space. Thus, the initial goal was to provide access to the material. Although the pandemic made it quite difficult for us to bring on board more like-minded people,” recalls Sethi, adding, “But now we have resumed participating in competitions, and even organise some of them ourselves. The long-term goal is to also create interest among those who are not inclined or do not yet have an interest.”
In a short span of time, the young guns have made giant strides. Under the Digital India Initiative, they have been acknowledged and supported by the government. Bringing youngsters from across the country to their team, the founding members are moving forward with gusto. “We believe in the Latin phrase Ad Astra, which means ‘Through difficulties, into the stars’. Ride through the difficulties, make it through, strive hard and make it to the stars. Ultimately we want to create awareness around space, space technology, space settlements and get humanity into the stars,” Verma sums up.
Author tweets Karan Sethi