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Indian-origin Scientist Sets up NGO to Fund Space Dreams of Kids from Low-Income Families

A 25-year-old Indian-born space scientist, Priya Patel, has started an NGO which aims at offering support to Indian students from low socio-economic strata interested in space-related studies.

In an interview with a leading daily, Priya revealed that the aim of her NGO, The Sharda Foundation which has been named after her grandmother, is to bring talented and aspiring Indian school students, to the facilities of an overseas space agency, like NASA. She believes that such an experience will allow them to experience space culture in various countries. “I want to bring resources to my home country, where there is a lot of talent and passion for space exploration,” she added.

Priya herself has the experience of working on key interplanetary missions with space agencies including NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Priya, who is currently pursuing her PhD from University College London in coordination with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told TOI that she was able to bag the opportunities because her parents made various sacrifices when they moved out of India.

The space engineer said, “I was lucky enough to have this experience, but now I want to make sure that I share those experiences with students who are truly passionate about space, but don’t have the resources to follow their passion.”

Born in Kadi, Gujarat, she moved to London in 2005. She is currently working on collecting atmospheric data to study the presence of water from NASA’s Perseverance Rover, which landed on Mars earlier this year in February. On working with NASA, Priya said that it was like a ‘dream come true’ and she is happy to represent Indian women in STEM. The 25-year-old is also preparing to become a stunt pilot, in the coming years.

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