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Anchal Bhaskar, who did her internship with MOFA is on her way to become a Space Architect at Houston. Her interview with Humans Of India. You have made us proud, girl!

Tell us about yourself

Anchal Bhaskar is a first year master’s student in the Cullen College of Engineering. She is in the Space Architecture program getting her master’s of science in Space Architecture. She is all the way from India. She came to the University of Houston in January from India where she got her undergraduate degree in architecture. With her master’s degree she wants to design habitats for people working in extreme environments or extreme conditions. She wants to research what methodology she can innovate to help people design a space station for a long duration mission. She was recently featured in the Cullen College of Engineering website for her outstanding achievements in her field, check out the article below!

Hi. You seem pretty excited.

Yes, A girl for whom visiting NASA was a dream since childhood would be excited the day when she finally lives and sees her dream.

How come you are here in Houston?

I am from India and I have done Bachelors in Architecture from Delhi (VASTU KALA ACADEMY COLLEGE OF ARCHITECTURE) and have come to Houston to pursue Master of Science in Space Architecture from Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA).

What’s that? Never heard of this.

Probably not. This is the only University on Earth offering this course, and I am glad to be accepted.

Space Architecture is basically making habitats for Extreme Environments here on Earth and beyond. Beyond here refers to interiors of the Orbital Space Station , designing Planetary Habitats and development of mission maps. It’s about analyzing the needs of some particular User-Groups and designing according to their challenging environment and their psychology. The user groups we deal with here is Astronauts, Researchers, Scientists working in polar stations (e.g Antarctica) and Deserts, Aquanauts working underwater. And applying all this research for creating something beneficial for disaster prone areas and then eventually for Humanity.

That’s quite unique. You might be knowing Kalpana Chawla.

She’s one of by biggest inspiration. I remember the day Columbia incident happened. It was 1st Feb 2003, my birthday and I cried a lot. It’s sad to accept that I share my birthday with her death anniversary.

Do you want to even work for NASA?

Definitely.

But I hope you know NASA doesn’t take non U.S. citizens, how do you even dream for it?

NASA will accept me for my talent one day, and not for the damn citizenship. I will work in NASA and that will happen in next 5 years, 10 years or maybe 20. But it will happen, definitely. NASA is definitely my dream, but my aim is also to do something for humanity, for disaster prone and the poverty stricken areas. Also, I want to expand the Space industry in India.
I hope I am able to fulfill these dreams one day.

One minute. You said you have done architecture And now you talking about space industry. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

I was always interested in the field of space since childhood. For some reasons, I could not enter any space related college after 12th. As I was in architecture, I always tried to merge these 2 fields, Space and Architecture. I even did projects related to space in my bachelor and was fortunate enough to have found professor Mr. Sanjay Mehra who always encouraged and supported me for this. And when I finally got to know of this college, probable the only on earth offering this course, I was like – this I what I am doing without any second thought.
My father always says that sometimes you don’t reach your destination directly, sometimes you have to pass through various checkpoints to reach your destination. So here, architecture was my checkpoint and space is the destination. And I am really proud of my checkpoint and the way these two fuse is simply wonderful.

Isn’t this a risky decision you have taken? What keeps you moving?

If I am passionate to do something, If I love what I am doing, I just do it without thinking about the consequences or any other second thought. At that point, that particular “Passion” becomes my “Aim”. I don’t stop myself from doing that by thinking “what if I am not successful?”. That’s fine if I am not successful, but at the end of the day I would be “Satisfied” and eventually be happy that I tried what “I” wanted, took risk and learnt something from it. Also, I believe that none of the risks go waste in life. they are the reason for teaching us something that no one else can, some experiences that we would learn only from ourselves. They are the sole reason for shaping us. If we want to achieve something, its’s perfectly fine to come out of the comfort zone. I literally hate the words “What if?”. I never even want to say these words and repent in my life ever. This feeling of repent will always be accompanied with unsatisfaction, another feeling I hate. And I think this is what keeps me moving. Right now, I am in a big risk, I don’t know what is my future after this? Right now I can just see some fuzzy grey clouds with no idea of what’s beyond that. But I believe that soon after the efforts, the fuzzy clouds will disappear, the path will be developed for a “Beautiful Destination”.

Tell us about your internship

Anchal Bhaskar flew to Russia with students from Rice University, Texas A&M University, Brown University, Cornell University and the University of Southern California.

UH Cullen College of Engineering students stepped it up a notch, hanging out in Moscow’s Red Square courtesy of the Baker Institute Space Policy Summer Intern Program. What makes their summer journey truly special is that they were two of only ten students selected from the United States and 150 from around the world.

Once there, Bhaskar met and worked with her global counterparts – which, according to the Baker Institute, is the point of the program: to foster collaborations with engineering and science students from all corners of the world to design projects for space. As NASA proudly points out, the International Space Station (ISS) is equal parts international cooperation and technological achievement. The Baker Institute’s idea is to emulate that success on a collegiate level.

“It was a wonderful experience to see how we will work together in the space industry in the future to make a collaboration where there will be people from different countries working together,” said Bhaskar.

“From the very beginning, students in the program tell us how amazing it would have been if we had all cooperated together in the beginning of the space era. Think of how much we could have achieved together,” said Olga Bannova, director of the UH Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA), offering the world’s only master’s degree in space architecture. “We would already be on Mars.” Bannova accompanies the students to Russia.

The program is hosted by the Youth Space Center of Bauman Moscow State Technical University, which conducts an annual international workshop on space development theory and practice. During the two-week workshop, the students had to propose a schematic design for creating a one-kilometer diameter space telescope using asteroid materials.

“We were doing all the design work, defining the density, mass and weight, and we got to know some cool software programs that other people were using in other countries,” said Philip.

Though a space telescope is a necessity (just look to – or through – the Hubble) a one-kilometer mirror made of asteroid materials is probably not essential, but the task stimulates innovative ideas.

“We can do such challenges at the student level so that we can learn more and face more challenges, because at the practical level, when we are working we won’t be given such innovative projects,” said Bhaskar.

They also got to go to the Roscosmos Mission Control Center to speak live and ask questions of cosmonauts on the ISS, a thrill the pair is still over the moon about.

Last year Chris Gay, an electrical engineering student at the Cullen College, won the opportunity, along with three other UH Cullen College students, to go to Russia with the Baker group. He learned many lessons, he said, about his “awesome” experience, but what stands out strongest to him is a lesson of international hospitality.

“The highlight to me was the first night in Russia. It was the Fourth of July and we had a group from Switzerland, Russia and the U.S. We were all getting to know each other and someone had the idea to go to a local pub,” said Gay. “So we spent the Fourth of July in an Irish pub in Russia and it was the most American Fourth of July that I have ever experienced!”

Bannova says the summer program, which she helped bring to the United States in 2011 along with the Baker Institute and former NASA Johnson Space Center director George Abbey, senior fellow in space policy at Baker Institute for Public Policy, is a great way to begin a career in the space industry.

“Quite a few of our program’s graduates already work in the space industry at the European Space Agency (ESA), Roscosmos and NASA,” said Bannova. “Our hope is one day they will be working together at an international level.”

And why not? According to Bannova the sky is not the limit for these talented minds.