An Interview with Great Astronaut Aspirant Anima Patil-Sabale, NASA, USA
1. Please, tell us about yourself.
I am a Software and Aerospace Engineer, have been working for NASA. Worked on the Kepler Mission and most recently in the Intelligent Systems Division. Apart from my daily job I am pursuing my childhood dream to become an astronaut. I am a Scientist-Astronaut Candidate for commercial space projects POSSuM and PHEnOM. I am a pilot, scuba diver, have been a Commander for NASA’s HERA – an analog asteroid mission, am a NASA Girls mentor, NASA Speakers Bureau member; have flown parabolas aboard a Falcon 20 to test performance of a spacesuit in microgravity; have spun in a centrifuge and experienced 6Gs in support of a FAA study; have been in a headdown 6 inch tilt position for 16 hours in support of an astronautics study; I am also a singer, dancer, painter, poet and a model; I am pursuing PhD coursework in Aerospace Sciences. Above all I am a Mom to 2 adorable handsomes! 🙂
2. What inspired you to build such a proud career?
This dream to become an astronaut took root in my little mind when I was about 7 years of age and I saw some pictures of astronauts and rocketships in books at a book fair at my school St. Josephs Convent School, Jalgaon. Since then I grew up finding ways to pursue this dream. I almost had to give up on it after my hopes to become a fighter pilot in the IAF were crushed and I ended up becoming a software engineer and coming to the US. I have actually begun my journey again in the past few years, lets see where it leads 🙂
3. How your journey started from Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India to USA?
(Let me warn you this is going to be a long one :-D. I am being lazy to type all this up again so I mostly borrowed from http://rocket-women.com/2016/05/meet-a-rocket-woman-anima-patil-sabale-nasa/ . Those are my words there anyways 😉 )
So like I mentioned, it was a childhood dream. It all began when I was 7 years old and we had a book fair at our school, St. Josephs Convent in the small city of Jalgaon in Maharashtra, India. At this book fair I came across books that had pictures of the US and Russian spacecrafts, astronauts lying on their backs when launching and Apollo astronauts. On that day I said to myself if I ever want to become something in life it is this – I want to become an astronaut. My only role model was Astronaut Rakesh Sharma, India’s one and only astronaut at the time. Growing up I thought to myself, like him I will become a fighter pilot and then I will have a chance to become an astronaut. The fighter pilot application said they were looking for graduates in engineering or physics. Since my Dad said whatever you want to study it has to be here, so going out of town to study engineering wasn’t an option and hence I decided to do BS Physics. I used to love physics anyways, and astronomy really interested me. I did my bachelors project on the same and I graduated with a distinction. I got the fighter pilot application and even though it said ‘only males’ can apply , I decided to apply anyways, but was defeated in one criteria – I was slightly short sighted and they needed a perfect 20 20 vision. All my world collapsed around me that day, it felt like everything was over now!
I didn’t know what I was going to do and the summer passed. It was time to make a decision about what I wanted to do next. I didn’t want to do a masters in Physics. My Dad suggested the MCA (MS Computer Applications), a 3-year-old program that had started at our North Maharashtra University in Jalgaon. With only 30 seats it was tough to get into but I got in. I completed MCA, meanwhile got married and husband and me worked in Mumbai for about couple of years .
we got the opportunity to come to the US on the H1B visa through the same company. In March 2000, we came to San Jose, California where we started settling in new jobs and making our new home here. In a couple of years I found out there was a NASA centre here, I was seeing the space shuttles launch and I remember watching Columbia launch.
Seeing the shuttles launch regularly, knowing about NASA Ames being close, my dream, that had become dormant, started beckoning me again. I saw hope of doing something here so with a full-time job as software engineer and with a 3 year old, I applied and got accepted for my second Masters – MS Aerospace Engineering degree at San Jose State University. While studying I kept applying at NASA, Lockheed, Space Systems – all local Bay Area aerospace companies for jobs. But I wasn’t a citizen and so I wouldn’t get any calls. I kept at it though. By the time I completed my second Masters, I had my second son! I did complete my MS with a decent GPS 3.24 /4 – not bad for a full-time mom and working woman! I completed the degree in 2010 but still had no success in getting even a call from NASA.
In 2012 when I was couple months away from becoming a citizen, I got a call from the hiring manager for a position on Kepler Mission. His first question was are you a US citizen and when he found out I was about to become one he called me in for an interview. One interview with about 10-12 scientists, managers and engineers and I landed the job. They liked my Aerospace and Software engineering background. I enjoyed working on Kepler as a Senior Principal Software Engineer in Operations Engineer role. While working on Kepler, I started doing talks about Kepler and NASA. I became a NASA mentor for girls. I was a Cub Scout Den Leader for my boys. I also started coaching my elder son’s Lego Robotics league and I started my private pilot lessons
4. Tell us about the roles of your parents, family, friends, relatives in your career.
Parents gave me a good education growing up along with all the values they taught me. They sent me and my sister to a convent school at a time when people questioned them, why send girls to an english medium school? They believed in giving us the best education and that is how me and my sister both pursued our Masters. When I started my MCA my mom was questioned by relatives why are they educating me so much, I have to get married and raise kids anyways. Its sad but that is the role relatives played in my career, of consistently pulling me down since childhood coz I was a smart kid, but I was a girl .
But my parents ignored and let people talk what they want and they believed in me. When I did my second MS in Aerospace Engg here in the US, I had a 4 year old and my second son was born in the last year. I wouldn’t have completed my MS had my parents not come to help me with the baby. So their contribution to my career is huge which cannot be measured any way.
Yes my husband and parents questioned my decision to study again with a fulltime job and a son, initially they opposed it even, but eventually seeing me go overboard to fulfill my duties for everyone, keeping my studies as the last priority, they came to support me and that has been a blessing!
5. What are your hobbies?
It’s a long list :-p I love singing, choreographing dances, dancing, sketching and painting, reading, cooking, traveling, flying, diving, and trying all sorts of adventure sports
6. Which is your most memorable successful day? How did you celebrate it?
On the personal front: When I had both my boys are the most memorable days of my life! I celebrated looking at their beautiful faces! 🙂
On the career front: When I got the job offer to work on the Kepler Mission! I shared the news with everyone I loved and was motivated that day to keep going!
7. What was the most challenging part of your journey till now?
The resistance I had to face initially when I started the journey.
8. How did you overcome those challenges?
I proved to my parents and husband, I will not compromise on my duties.
9. What have you learned from the mistakes you did previously?
Not to repeat them?! Lol. Just kidding, but yes, its a lifelong journey of learning from the mistakes one makes. No regrets, but just learning lessons every time.
10. Who is your top influential person in life?
My parents! Because of them I exist!
11. According to you, what are the five qualities an individual must have to achieve success?
DEDICATION towards ones goals, PERSISTENCE and never giving up no matter the hardships, HARD WORKING coz laziness is not helpful when you dream big, PATIENT in all circumstances, RISK TAKER who is able to accept failures, learn from them and look beyond them.
12. What according to you, are the most important aspects of your career?
The challenges, the excitement of learning and doing something new every day, the possibilities of working on research that is going to help humans get to Mars and beyond someday, the thrills of participating in exciting studies that give me an opportunity to test myself while I contribute towards important research!
13. According to you, what is most important thing in life?
A positive spirit and outlook towards life, no matter what! These help you live life to the fullest!! 🙂
14. How will you compare Brain Vs Speed of Light?
Hmm. This I never thought of. Speed of light is a concept our brains have come up with. I briefly read about a scientist talking about a faster than speed of light particle tachyon. This goes to show it is all in the human brain, everything arises inside the human brain. We have been taught about the speed of light complete with scientific explanations and reasoning and so we believe it to be true. But that limits our thinking, its like that saying about a horse having just one vision because his sight is limited by the blinders on his eyes.
What we know has been taught to us over years. But lets not forget all our knowledge has come from human brains, their understanding of things around us. We need to look beyond the laws taught to us to be able to travel faster than the speed of light if we want to make intergalactic travel a reality. That is whats happening in Quantum Physics currently, a revolution. The EM Drive is puzzling scientists and defying laws of Physics.
I can go on and on about this. But in conclusion I say there is no comparison between the human brain and speed of light. Speed of light is a figment of knowledge that the human brain has given.
15. What do you think about world in next 100 years?
In the next 100 years I see a revolution happening in human deep space exploration. We will atleast get to Mars and lay the foundation for deep space travel by mid-century. Based on the lessons learned from the first mission to Mars, things will speed up and we will be settling our Moon, Europa, Titan as our travel stops as we plan to venture beyond our solar system. We might come up with a propulsion technology that will help us travel at least near the speed of light, the EM drive research indicates that. But while we make progress in space exploration, we will benefit from all that technology here on Earth as well, as we have always been. I just hope we come together as one world and divert all our expenses on military and defense, towards space exploration. I wish to see that day when military and defense spending by all countries is brought to zero, and we are investing all that money for the benefit of all humankind here on Earth and in space.
16. What you will say about Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX?
I am big fan and he is a great example of what a talented person can do despite a childhood full of hardships and challenges! He is a genius and he has inspired many to venture in the commercial space industry. He is in the lead with his reusable rocket concept, he is making spaceflight affordable and I will not be surprised if SpaceX lands a human on Mars first! After all he has done things people believed were impossible !
17. What are your future dreams / ambitions?
I continue to aspire to be a NASA Astronaut. I will continue to work on developing my astronautics skills. I will continue to train myself as a Scientist-Astronaut Candidate for commercial space projects. I will continue working on research projects in space exploration. And while doing all this, I will continue pursuing my motto to “Inspire, Guide and Motivate” youth and kids through my talks and my social media websites : http://www.animapatilsabale.com and http://www.facebook.com/animpatilsabale
18. Share a quote that inspires you the most.
Upwards and Onwards! The Computer History Museum put together a poster on me when I was a rockstar speaker for one of their events. They asked me to come up with a quote. Of course no one quote is enough 😉 so I came up with a mishmash of what I believe I want to convey to everyone as a message from me, specially youngsters:
Dream Big, Soar High, Work Hard, Be Persistent, Have a Backup Plan and Keep Charging Upwards and Onwards!
19. According to you, how we at technoexam, can help to educate each and every person on any planet?
By reaching the rural regions which is the only one lacking in knowledge about science technology and what is going on in the world, I think. ( I might be wrong). I want to do that myself, but am bound by responsibilities right now. But I have that on my mind, to reach the rural young generation and to work with them on science projects that will help them innovate and make life easier for themselves and the people around them.