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Hardik is first Indian space tourist

Hardik Gajjar, a 21-yr-old BSc student from Ahmedabad, may well be doing that next year when he flies to space on the Rocketplane XP with a NASA astronaut, reports R Das.

india Updated: Jan 12, 2008 08:39 IST
Rathin Das
Rathin Das
Hindustan Times

“To experience how to pee in zero gravity,” was Hardik Gajjar’s reply to ‘why do you want to go to space?’ And the 21-year-old BSc student may well be doing that next year when he flies to space on the Rocketplane XP with a NASA astronaut.

Hardik — who will become the first Indian tourist in space — had signed up for a television contest “Bingo Bindaas go to space” organised by the UTV channel Bindaas. He was hoping to win an Ipod.

Beamed up to space

The passenger
Hardik Gajjar along with several NASA astronauts and scientists

His achievement
Winning a TV competition designed to test all-round personality

His prize
Six months at NASA, then a ride on board a NASA spaceship

Top of the world
Hardik will fly into space on a Rocketplane XP, commanded by NASA astronaut John Herrington

The phone has been ringing off the hook since Friday afternoon, when Hardik was told he had won the contest, at his modest home in the middle-class Ranna Park locality with congratulatory calls from friends and relatives.

Hardik, who has won several trophies at college and university for events like mimicry, acting, debates and dance, will now have to go through a six-month training programme with NASA. The spacecraft will be commanded by John Herrington who has 300 hours of space flying experience.

The contest began with filling up a form and simple auditions in all the state capitals. It was based on four personality traits called 4 Fs — frank, fun, freedom and fearless, said Hardik. Only seven finalists were selected to go through to the subsequent rounds of stage performance.

They were called to a Mumbai studio where they went through group discussions followed by medical check ups and one-on-one sessions with the judges. “Later, the questions on general knowledge, space and basic intelligence became tougher and tougher,” said Hardik.

The other rounds included ‘crazy TV show’ in which he had to imitate a soap opera character and mimicry — the participants were given only a few seconds to prepare. The ‘Black Hole’ round comprised a question and answer session on space related issues, with only three contestants reaching this stage.

A spokesperson of Bindaas channel said the contest was very tough and Hardik had performed well all through. Hardik is the first person to win a space trip for an award, said Palak Dani, senior manager (PR) of Bindaas, told Hindustan Times on phone from Mumbai. The award function will be in Mumbai on Sunday.