(November 16, 2021) Science and art have been as different as chalk and cheese for centuries now. If one is based on facts and logic, the other plays with creativity. But Priyanka Das Rajkakati is one of those rare people who is enjoying the best of both worlds by being a space scientist and an artist. The 29-year-old, who hails from Assam, is now a part of the Moon Gallery project wherein she will be sending her artwork to be showcased on the moon in 2022.
This Global Indian, who has made it to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, for her work in science and innovation is one of the most promising scientists in the field of space. But Rajkakati took a while to find a balance between the two things that she love the most to reach the top.
Torn between science and art
Originally from Assam, Rajkakati grew up in Delhi and had her heart both in science and art. If the colors and designs fascinated her, she was equally captivated by the stars and the moon. It was hard for her to choose between the two as she loved both of them. So when she decided to graduate, Rajkakti found herself in a fix. While she did graduate in Physics from St Stephens College, she had almost come close to studying product design at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. She did attend NID for a month but something gnawed within her. She was unable to shut her equally strong calling for science, so she left her creative journey to jump onto the bandwagon of science.
After completing her graduation, Rajkakati moved to France at 21 to explore new horizons, learn a new language and eat French food. In between, she joined Ecole Polytechnique in France where she did a double master’s in Artificial Intelligence and Aerospace Engineering.
Dreams of entering the space
Rajkakati, who was always interested in space, knew that her next step towards her dream was a degree in Aerospace Engineering for which she enrolled in the ISAE-Supaero.
This helped her bag an assignment to work for the satellite navigation wing of Rafale Fighter Jets of France. While pursuing her PhD, she contributed her expertise in satellite navigation for the French Defence Company, Safran. Not just this, she even constructed a micro-satellite in Paris. In 2018, she added another feather to her cap by becoming the ambassador of ‘For Girls and Science’ to inspire scientists of the future. Talking about the initiative, she told PTI, “As part of the programme, we meet middle school and high school students, and through talks and presentations, we try to clear the misconceptions about scientists and women in science.”
The very next year brought another opportunity for this 29-year-old who became one of the youngest women of Indian origin to be selected for the fifth edition of Homeward Bound, a global initiative that conducts leadership expeditions for women in science to Antarctica. A stepping stone to her dream of being an astronaut, the programme provided her with the perfect training. Rajkakati, who dreamt of exploring space, soon co-founded The Exploration Company that develops and operates Nyx, a modular and reusable vehicle that can be refuelled in the orbit and carries cargo.
Art on its way to the moon
The scientist is also an artist who explores the art-science harmony through exhibitions and residencies, drawing inspiration from mathematics, space, scientific projects, travel, and Indian roots. “When I discovered that one of the angles of an obsession of mine is Space, which is, in fact, a highly interdisciplinary field, I finally found a valid context for experimenting with Art and Science,” she told TIME8. Now she is set to send her artwork to the moon in a compact form by 2022. Called Bhedadipika – an illustration of duality, her artwork is inspired by her Indian roots and Vedic influence. “It is to showcase to the world that art and culture are core elements of humanity. Future human settlements in space, if we ever reach such a stage, will therefore also require us to integrate art and culture to have stable and functional space societies,” she added.
Well! If hasn’t been a great start to 2021!
I owe this one big to all the people – friends and family – who’ve believed in my crazy dreams and constantly motivated me to touch the stars!@FranceinIndia @ISAE_officiel @Polytechnique #WomenInScience #artscience #womenintech https://t.co/FAmaDrISVb
— Priyanka D. Rajkakati 🚀 (@PriyankaSpace) February 5, 2021
Her artwork will be sent to the moon as part of The Moon Gallery which is a project that brings together a gallery of ideas that are worth sending to the moon.
Rajkakati, who has made it to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, is one of those rare scientists who have beautifully fused science with art. The 29-year-old is an inspiration for many women who are looking to immerse themselves in the field of science but also keep their creativity intact.
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