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Here's your child's ticket to NASA

Last updated: 03 February, 2011
New Delhi, Feb 3 (IANS) 15:32 IST

If your child wants to become an astronaut, here's a golden chance -- Nickelodeon is hosting a contest for selection of a few kids for a 10-day curriculum at the Kennedy Space Center, Orlando later this year.

The initiative is part of the channel's new annual property that will identify unusual vocations most kids want to pursue, and give them a chance to live their passion.
An online poll on nickindia.com suggested that maximum children in India wish to be astronauts, and so the channel has decided to give them an opportunity to explore the world of space sciences at NASA.

"We were pleasantly surprised to know that 43 percent children want to become astronauts, followed by 25 percent children who wish to become doctors... careers like teaching and being artists were all in single digits,” Nina Elavia Jaipuria, senior vice president and general manager, Nickelodeon India, told IANS.

"Not many Indians, with the exception of Kalpana Chawla, Rakesh Sharma and Sunita Williams, have made it big as astronauts... so it will be nice if some children could go there and experience the life of an astronaut. Who knows they could be working there someday,” she added.

So what do the kids have to do to stand a chance?
"They have to write a 150 word-essay on ‘I want to be an astronaut because …’. Our expert panel will review the entries and choose a minimum of three kids, who will get to go with their parents to the Kennedy Space Center,” added Jaipuria.

At the NASA headquarters, the children will be meeting a real life astronaut, understand how a space centre works, and be on a simulation ride in a mock space shuttle, among other things.

The channel has also tied up with US-based company Discovery Dome, to set up mobile planetarium in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai, to give children an insight into some astronomical films.

Professor Patricia H. Reiff, a certified NASA expert, and the president of Discovery Dome, has especially flown down to India for the initiative, and says she sees a lot of potential in Indian students to become great astronauts.

"I heard that a number of children in India want to be astronauts, no matter how boring math and science classes can be! But it's great news, and I am excited to be able to bring mobile planetariums here,” said Reiff.

Reiff remembers working with Kalpana Chawla sometime before the latter took off in the Columbia space shuttle, which disintegrated on its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere in February 2003. She says Kalpana was a “delightful and beautiful woman”.

"People like Kalpana are a great inspiration for the Indian students... but it takes a lot of hardwork and passion to pursue space sciences. Nevertheless, I hope a lot of children from here go to Mars someday,” she said.

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