26-year-old Deepana Gandhi is a member of Team Indus, the only team from India to have been shortlisted among 16 global teams for the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize competition, the race to land a privately-financed robotic craft on the Moon by December 2017. Deepana also happens to be the centerpiece of a documentary series that traces the competing teams’ backstories. Titled Moon Shot, the series is produced by JJ Abrams, the co-creator of the TV series Lost and director of last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
“India’s changing. What I have been through is proof of it,” says Deepana in the documentary, “Now there are women who are doing well in science and space studies. Soon, there will be an equal number of men and women (in these fields).” Deepana is part of the flight dynamics group at the Bengaluru-based Team Indus, responsible for controlling the spacecraft from the point it gets separated from the launch vehicle, till the touchdown on the moon. Abrams’ documentary, directed by Oscar-nominated Orlando von Einsiedel, traces Deepana’s story from her school days in Ooty to her present-day moon mission. She was fascinated with Math from a young age. “Math mixed with Science is beautiful,” she says, as the film shows her teaching children in a small-town school about space, reported The Times Of India.
According to Deccan Chronicle, Deepana is trying to break gender stereotypes by achieving big in this field. “It’s a ten-year dream, which we’re about to realise! Fingers crossed, but we’ll try our best to come out on top,” starts Deepana. The Google Lunar X Prize, which was founded in 2007, is awarded to teams, who are able to land a privately-funded rover on the moon, travel 500 meters on its surface, and transmit back high-definition video and images.
Team Indus is currently among the top three teams competing for this prize. They even received a $1 million cash prize for this. Elaborating on how her love for space was awakened, she explains, “Right from a very young age, I’ve always been obsessed towards it. Be it reading or watching films, I always loved everything about space! And, later, while pursuing my Masters degree in PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore, I did an internship in ISRO and that’s when I made my mind that I would give my best to excel in this challenging field,” Deepana said.