Kochi: They are on cloud nine after being able to fulfill a dream that they had been nurturing for a long time. Having been able to visit the space launch facility of NASA at Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, the seven students of Toc-H Public School, Vyttila, Kochi, dream of becoming astronauts now that they have a fair idea as to how it would be possible and what are the preliminary prerequisites to become an astronaut.
The six boys and one girl who belong to the science stream in Class X and XI, were able to find a way with the school taking the initiative to tie-up with a Tamil Nadu-based agency 'Go 4 Guru' to find the route to NASA. The students had to bear the expenses for travel and visa while NASA allowed free entry. "Fortunately all of them got a 10-year visa and since some of them aspire for higher education abroad, they are happy," said Meera Thomas, vice-principal (activities and innovation) who led the team to NASA.
The students Richy Joy, Edwin Thomas of Class X and Amal Jas, Akshay Murukesh, Chris Sherin, Arshaque Haris and Arshath Haris of Class XI engaged in a three-day robotics workshop at the NASA centre.
"We were exposed to simulated environments in space and how robots related to space programmes are developed. We were able to make a robotic rover and also could make a specific pathway for the rover in space and we moved the robot in the pathway on the third day. It was simply amazing doing all these after following the instructions of the NASA scientists. We are really elated," said Chris Sherin, the only girl in the team.
Meera Thomas said that the NASA premises had a special appeal. "The area looks almost like a forest and is located on Merritt Island, Florida. They don't disturb the habitat and it is preserved as a national park. There are crocodiles, reptiles, bald eagle which is the national bird of the US that makes the biggest nest in the world. This is one of the 14 centres of NASA in the US. Kennedy Space Centre is the launching pad of NASA," she said. Students were able to see moon rock samples at the Kennedy Space Center. The students were not allowed to walk inside the facility but were taken by bus and food was also provided there.
They have fond memories of two NASA scientists Jack Lousmaa and John Blaha who made a few space odysseys, and guided them during the three days and narrated to them their experience in space. "NASA is keen on encouraging such visits by eager students. They have three-day and seven-day camps for students where scientists will accompany the children," said Meera.
"Many of the innovations like MRI and CT scans, tissue culture, flight flap were the product of research in NASA and their relevance as off-shoots in other spheres of life cannot be underrated," she added.
"We were able to see Atlantis and 3D pictures depicting the repair of the Hubble Telescope. We were impressed by the discipline and dedication at NASA. They go to work at 8.30 am and till leaving the workspace, they stay focused," said Richy Joy.
The students also visited New York, Washington DC, Florida, Niagara Waterfalls and Orlando during their life-enriching 11-day trip.