Indian-origin scientists have played a significant role in astronomy and science; the recent invention of a telescope further proved this. For instance, NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope showed the deepest images of the universe; it showed the colourful galaxies, nebulas and Jupiter’s moon. However, a lot of hard work went behind the successive invention of the telescope, and three Indian scientists are particularly to be attributed.
NASA administrator Bill Nelson said that the telescope shows the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe. Also, the images captured cover a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length.
The scientists behind the development of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)
Born in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, Dr Hashima Hasan is the NASA Deputy Program Scientist for NuSTAR, the Keck Observatory, and ADCAR (Astrophysics Data Curation and Archival Research). Besides, she has been monitoring and managing the science program for the telescope; she makes sure that the mission stays in progress and true to NASA’s strategic objectives.
Furthermore, in one of the videos published by NASA, she spoke about her childhood; when she was growing up in India, she got fascinated with space when her grandmother took her to the backyard to see Sputnik.
She completed her undergraduate studies at Aligarh Muslim University and studied at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research( TIFR), Mumbai. After completing her studies, she worked at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre(BARC); later, she received her doctorate from Oxford University in theoretical nuclear physics.
Dr Hasan was the Optical Telescope Assembly Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, till 1994, following which she joined NASA and carried out several missions since then.
Kalyani Sukhatme grew up in Mumbai and completed her Bachelors in Technology(B-Tech) from IIT Bombay, after which she completed her Masters’s and a doctorate in physics from the University of California. Also, in 1998, she joined NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow.
In 2012, she won the European Space Agency James Webb Space Telescope award for significant achievement. She had been working as a project manager for the Mid-Infrared Instrument(MIRI), one of the four instruments on the telescope. However, presently she works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.
Moreover, she has often been credited with contributing to the technological development of infrared detectors and their spaceflight missions operation.
Indian-origin Kartik Sheth is a programme scientist in the astrophysics department within NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. He completed his Master’s and PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Maryland; before joining NASA, he worked at Caltech. Also, he was a tenured astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville.
Besides, he has been working as a programme scientist in the Astrophysics and Earth Science Division, Nasa. Additionally, he has been administering space missions and research and development programs in advanced technology.
At the same time, he has been working on a few research programs that aim at United Nations’ sustainable development goals. Furthermore, his current portfolio boasts James Webb Space Telescope, SOFIA, Spitzer and the Origins Space Telescope, and the Hubble Fellowship programme. However, one of his most distinguished achievements is NASA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award for his work leading the Anti-Racism Action group.