His love for geology and science has taken Sonit Sisolekar’s (12) dream all the way to Mars, as the city boy’s project was among the several experiments to be recently launched by NASA.
Sonit Sisolekar, a self-taught and home-tutored student, bagged this opportunity after winning the ‘Cubes in Space’ competition organised by NASA.
His experiment was designed and planned with an aim to understand the role of ionization of radiations in turning the Martian surface into red colour. This experiment will be further studied after NASA sends back the collected atmospheric samples here to Pune, expected within the next two months.
NASA, using its Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, launched the experiment from Fort Sumner, New Mexico, late last month and the flight was completed within six hours and 33 minutes.
Son of medical practitioners, the 12-year-old often spends hours together reading books on science fiction along with academic books actually meant for higher secondary and undergraduate-level students.
When asked about the decision to home tutor Sonit, his father Dr Santosh Sisolekar said, “ He would not be keen or satisfied in studying from books of his own class and that is why, we decided to home tutor him. He learns all by himself and follows no particular time-table or specific study habits while at home.”
Sonit, also a tabla player, has always had a keen interest in environment and nature, since he was three years old.
Many of his family outings into the forests and hillsides kindled his interest in geology and science subjects, as a whole, said the senior Sisolekar.
“These trips greatly helped him develop a scientific temperament at a very young age,” said Dr Sisolekar.
For the NASA project, he was throughout guided by two researchers from the city — Raymond Duraiswami, professor of Geology at Savitribai Phule Pune University and Gyana Ranjan Tripathy from Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER), Pune. Besides, scientific lectures organised by the Exciting Science Group of NCL- IISER, Pune, too have played key role in shaping this young child prodigy, believe the Sisolekars.
Even as Sonit has won the international competition, what he now awaits is laboratory research from the samples.