How girl from city of nawabs gave legs to SpaceX’s Falcon | India News

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Jun 1, 2020

LUCKNOW: When SpaceX’s rocket ship Falcon 9 lifted off Kennedy Space Centre on Saturday, millions cheered around the world. None, however, was probably as moved in joy as 86-year-old Raj Kumari, a resident of Indiranagar in Lucknow. Kumari is the grandmother of Kanika Gakhar, a 24-year-old student of aerospace engineering and a key member of the team that had designed the landing legs of the rocket back in 2018. An intern then, Kanika is all set to join SpaceX in August.
“I have got all treasures of the world. I have everything now,” says Kumari. Pursuing her master’s at MIT, Kanika had worked on a major component of the landing legs — the main actuator. Part of the ground support team, it was their job to ensure that the rocket comes down safely.
Speaking to TOI from her home in Houston, Texas, Kanika says, “I was an intern at SpaceX in 2018 and we worked on various projects in the three-month tenure. One of them was designing the landing legs of rockets that SpaceX sends to space. Falcon 9 has the same design.” The team of eight people had two interns and Kanika recalls the thrill of working with some of the brightest minds.
“SpaceX is like a younger version of Nasa. We were on its campus in Hawthorne, California. The best part about SpaceX is that even as an intern, I was given full responsibility. Probably because we were selected after rounds of rigourous technical interviews. The internship is a much sought after one and I got it after applying thrice,” recalls Kanika.
During her stint, Kanika met SpaceX founder Elon Musk and even interacted with Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, who went into space on Saturday. “The level of motivation at SpaceX is unmatched. I saw many launches. I had to design tools to be used by a rocket and we were told of the date of launch. We had to meet deadlines because the rocket was to use my design,” says Kanika.
“Since the age of about five, Kanika had begun saying that she wanted to go to Nasa. Her focus was clear,” says her father Sandeep Kumar. “Kanika was always a hardworker and focused. She pushed herself at every step to reach her goal,” says her mother Simmi.
Crediting her family for helping her inch closer to her dream, Kanika says her parents kept her spirits high whenever she needed them.

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