FOR Baramati resident Siddhi Pawar and Raghav Nautiyal from Mumbai, the last few days have been a blur. The two Class IX students have just returned from the ISRO headquarters in Bengaluru, where they had gone to watch the landing of Chandrayaan 2 on the surface of the moon along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi early September 7.
Pawar (14), a student of V P Vinodkumar Gujar Bal Vikas Mandir, had taken an online quiz on the ISRO website that paved the way for her visit. Nautiyal (13), a student of Oberoi International School, had taken the test on August 14.
Between August 10 and 25, ISRO had conducted an online quiz for students from classes VIII to X. In all, 60 students were selected — two from every state and union territory. Maharashtra was represented by Pawar and Nautiyal.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Pawar said, “Science and maths are my favorite subjects. I wanted to study computer engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology. But after returning from ISRO, I feel I want to become a scientist.”
Pawar had taken with her to Bengluru a sketch that she wanted to gift the PM. In the sketch, Modi is seen greeting late scientist A P J Abdul Kalam. However, she was told that no paper could be allowed near the PM. “Even before my school received a circular on the quiz, I had found out about it on the ISRO website. I had been reading about space since Class IV,” said Pawar, who was accompanied by her parents to Bengaluru.
She was given a tour of the control room and monitoring room at ISRO.
Nautiyal, meanwhile, is enjoying his new found stardom. “My friends sent me screenshots of YouTube videos where I can be seen in the frame. I also took to school the memento and booklet I received from ISRO. My friends were thrilled to see it,” he said. The highlight of the trip for him was to meet the PM and shake hands with ISRO Chairman K Sivan.
Both students said they made friends at the event. Pawar keeps in touch with students from Jammu and Kashmir and Nagaland who also attended the event. All students who visited ISRO now have a WhatsApp group. “What I learnt from the visit is that one should always aim high. Results don’t define success. It is the procedure that matters,” Nautiyal said, adding that he is spending more time reading on Indian space missions now.
Ask about the last few minutes, when ISRO lost communication with the Vikram lander, Nautiyal said: “We didn’t know what was happening. But we knew something was wrong, as it was visible on the faces of the scientists.”
After Sivan announced that ISRO has lost contact with the lander, the students were escorted for a brief meet with the PM. Pawar and Nautiyal, along with other students, now have a visual proof being a slice of history: their photo at the ISRO with the PM.