Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams are two female astronauts of Indian origin who made the nation proud. Joining the club is Dr. Shawna Pandya, an Indo-Canadian astronaut, who has been a part of various on ground space missions in the United States.
32-year-old Shawna is immensely gifted. She's a talented author, a general physician, and also an international Taekwondo champion, apart from being a space scientist. She also took training in Muay Thai from a Navy seal. Muay Thai is a professional combat sport that originated in Thailand. Speaking with Edmonton Sun, Pandya said, "Since I was a kid, I loved space, I loved the stars. So this kind of is a realisation of a lifelong dream." She had previously interned at the Johnson Space Centre in NASA.
Shawna graduated from the University of Alberta, doing her Bachelor of Science (BSc) in neuroscience. Later on, she did her masters in space sciences from the International Space University in France and MD in medicine from the University of Alberta. She enrolled herself in medical school and the space programme simultaneously, considering the latter a backup option. She had training in speaking French, Russian and Spanish.
With her roots in Mumbai, she visited the city to see her family and she has been giving motivational talks at the local hospitals, speaking with doctors and practising students. In an interview with Hindustan Times, she said, "I met students from Lilavatibai Podar High School and the questions they asked me were brilliant, right from zero-gravity experiences to outer space. When I talked to medical students, I realised they have the zeal to venture out but aren’t always aware of the ways in which they can. All we need is to get acquainted with everyday developments in science, be resilient, and always try to achieve something bigger."
Shawna also had training in neurosurgery for some time but however, she does possess her medical license in general medicine. In a recent Facebook post, she said, "I look forward to continuing my work as a physician, speaker and citizen-scientist astronaut and aquanaut, and just as importantly, look forward to continuing my work with outreach and education about these projects."