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NASA astronaut Steven Ray Swanson: Didn’t spot anything of India from space

Steven Ray Swanson, a retired NASA astronaut, interacted with school students during his recent visit to Gurgaon.

gurgaon Updated: Oct 14, 2017 21:29 IST
Naina Arora
Naina Arora
Hindustan Times
NASA,Astronaut,Steven Ray Swanson
A retired NASA astronaut, Steven Ray Swanson, recently visited Gurgaon for an interactive session with students. (Manoj Verma/HT Photo)

For Steven Ray Swanson, a retired NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration) astronaut, the best thing about being in space is the idea of floating. “As a kid, I loved the idea of experiments and in space, you’re experimenting everyday. It’s like being at the best playground of the world,” says Swanson, who visited Gurgaon for Mission Discovery — an international programme that provides an opportunity to students to learn and work directly with astronauts, rocket scientists, and NASA leaders.

On this trip, Swanson wished to go touristy in the city. “Last year, when I was in Delhi, I went to see the Taj Mahal. This year, I plan to go to Akshardham (Temple). My team had previously shown me around the Capital. The people here are nice. And, since I like spicy food, I explored the restaurants of Delhi, too,” he recalls.

Swanson has flown two space shuttle flights, logged 643 hours and completed four space walks. He says, “Watching the earth from the space is beautiful. It was something we liked to do in our free time. We would take pictures, too. I could spot the Egyptian Pyramids, but didn’t get a chance to spot anything in India.”

Dressed in a NASA astronaut flight suit, Swanson got the students hooked to his talk at the sessions organised in the Millennium City. “My journey started as a child, who loved science. There on, I got a degree in engineering and did masters and PhD in computer science. I started working for NASA and got selected to be an astronaut in 1998,” he recollects.

“Last year I stayed in Delhi and went to Agra for the Taj Mahal. I had to do that, as it was a must. And went to a couple of spots around Delhi. They [team] was taking me around, so half the time, I didn’t know where I was(laughs). I was like ‘That’s a nice restaurant’, ‘That’s a nice place’. And, I like spicy food, so,I’m happy with that and the people [here] are very nice” — Steven Ray Swanson

Post his interaction with the science enthusiasts in the city, he said that he saw a lot of potential in them. “A lot of them wanted to know about the science experiments, as the main purpose of the International Space Station is explore science. They were interested in what’s going on in space, science wise, the successes and failures of the projects undertaken. I spoke to them about the film Martian (2015); on the parts that were real and that weren’t.”

“I was here a year ago, for the same kind of programme. The experience has been good. The kids are very enthusiastic, intelligent and have the urge to learn.Their future is bright. And if we are able to guide them, they will be successful in whatever they do. It’s great to work with them and promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). And, I am happy to be doing that,” he adds.

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First Published: Oct 14, 2017 21:29 IST