Sivasish Thakur

Artwork to be sent to the Moon

Priyanka Das Rajkakati

GUWAHATI, Feb 16: A space scientist and an artist Priyanka Das Rajkakati, who finds a place in Forbes India’s 30 Under 30 – an annual list of India’s brightest young achievers – is also among the few whose artworks will be showcased on the Moon itself as part of an international Moon Gallery project.

Under the project, the artworks will be sent to the Moon via a lunar lander mission.

Priyanka’s unique endeavour is inspired by the ethos of ancient Indian Vedic scriptures and the notion of duality. Also central to her artwork is her own dual nature as an artist-scientist.

Aptly named ‘Bhedadipika – an illustration of Duality’, her submission reflects her Indian roots and Vedic influence.

According to Priyanka, whose artwork carries a strong message for the future of space and culture, art and culture do have importance in human space missions.

“It is essential to consider that future space civilizations will also require cultural development,” Priyanka told The Assam Tribune.

Prof Bernard Foing, Executive Director of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group and former chief scientist at the European Space Agency, seconds her.

“She is drawing inspiration from ancient Indian Vedic scriptures from her own culture on the notion of duality, and playing with her own dual nature as an artist-scientist. Her artwork carries a strong message for the future of space and culture,” he said.

The young scientist-artist’s submission comprises two objects constrained inside a one cubic centimetre box – a strip of paper with hand-drawn phases of the moon in glow-in-the-dark ink, and a nano SIM card that contains artistic simulations that are coded using Python programming language.

Terming the recognition in the science category but for her artwork as exciting, Priyanka said that she owed it to the fact that she had cultivated her love for art while pursuing a scientific career at the best institutes, with space as the glamorous backdrop.

Priyanka, who has a dual interest in arts and science, pursued a bachelor’s degree in physics at New Delhi’s St Stephen’s College, a part of the Cambridge Mission to India, now a part of the University of Delhi.

“It is there that I heard about École Polytechnique and its multidisciplinary course from Prof Jean-Marc Deshouillers. I was very interested in École Polytechnique because of its incredible alumni. My fascination for fractals made me want to breathe the same air as Benoit Mandelbrot, who contributed significantly to the field of fractal geometry. For my 4th year of studies within the Ingénieur Polytechnicien Program, I studied aerospace engineering at ISAE-Supaéro in Toulouse, where I am currently finishing a PhD,” she said.

Another highlight, she added, was to be chosen as an ‘analogue astronaut’ and commander-in-training, with a team of scientists studying the effect of being constrained together in a small space for a long time – an important factor to be considered in the case of human space exploration.

The multifaceted young scientist was also selected in 2019 – alongside 75 women from all over the world – to be part of the 5th cohort of the Homeward Bound initiative for women in science, involving a collective trip to Antarctica aimed at leadership training and highlighting the impact of climate change on the ice continent.

Priyanka is the daughter of Manoj Kumar Das, Managing Director, North Eastern Regional Agricultural Marketing Corporation Limited, Assam, and Dr Ajanta Baruah Das, currently working with Delhi Government Health Scheme, New Delhi.