Pune toddler's rocket captures ISRO chairman Dr Sivan's heart

Pune toddler's rocket captures ISRO chairman Dr Sivan's heart
Three-and-a-half-year-old Khrisha (left), her creation: ‘The ISRO Rocket,’ (center), Khrisha’s playschool work on solar system shared by her father.

Bengaluru: A small rocket launched from Pune has captured the imagination of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman Dr Kailasavadivoo Sivan. The ‘designer and manufacturer’ of this little rocket is Khrisha, a three-and-a-half-year-old playschooler.

Khrisha has named her maiden spacecraft ‘The ISRO Rocket’.

The spacecraft caught the attention of no less than Dr Sivan, after Khrisha’s father Manish Gajjaria tweeted the image of Khrisha’s painting, tagging the ISRO Twitter handle on December 18, 2018, — the day GSLV-F11 launched GSAT-7A.

“My three-year-old made her own rocket after seeing the ISRO rocket takeoff the last time round. She now wants to go to the Moon!” read Manish’s tweet.

Manish is an electronics engineer working for a start-up that’s aiming to design the world’s fastest storage array.

“It all started in November last year, when I showed her a video of an ISRO rocket launch countdown and the rocket takeoff on Twitter. She was particularly intrigued by the reverse countdown (10, 9, 8...) and as she is just learning numbers, she found it funny. From that day on, she often asked me when ISRO will launch the next rocket,” Manish told Onmanorama.

Pune toddler's rocket captures ISRO chairman Dr Sivan's heart
ISRO Chairman Dr K Sivan during the recently-launched Samwad with Students. Pic: ISRO

As part of her play school activities, Khrisha had recently learnt about the solar system, rockets, comets and astronauts.

“She is always excited about these topics and we are often bombarded with questions. During the December 18 launch, the family had to reach the railway station but she ensured that we left only after the liftoff was over,” Manish said.

As luck would have it, Khrisha’s painting landed on the desk of Dr Sivan at a time when ‘Samwad with Students (SwS)’, the new outreach initiative of the space agency was about to be launched.

“It was night and I was clearing all the mails and letters marked to me. The painting caught my eye and I was curious to know more about the girl. It is important that we acknowledge the ideas of youngsters,” Dr Sivan told Onmanorama.

The ISRO aims to inspire young India through the SwS programme. “The idea is to listen to our youngsters. I feel scientists must take time out and hear out the ideas of young students. We can inspire them by sharing our experiences in a way they can understand. In the process we too get inspired. This little girl’s rocket is an example of the talent we have,” Dr Sivan said.

As Khrisha continues to wonder why the countdown of a rocket launch is 10, 9, 8, 7, 6... and not 1, 2, 3, 4... the way her playschool teacher had taught her, the ISRO plans to send her some surprise gifts.

Manish has now started keeping track of ISRO’s launch schedules earnestly, thanks to his daughter. “Khrisha has made me focus on our space programmes more closely now,” he laughed.

(The writer is an independent aerospace and defence journalist, who blogs at Tarmak007 and tweets @writetake.)

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