8 March 2011
News - Tourism (Good)
Keralan Business to Send Kids to Space
Plans are in the works to make it so
by G B Leatherwood
Most of us, this writer included, have probably never heard of Kerala and have no idea where it is, much less why it would be a subject of interest in space tourism.

Kerala is a district of India on its southwest coast that boasts a lush tropical climate. In addition to a life expectancy of 70 years, a moderate birth rate, and a stable government, Kerala has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, with significant emphasis on science and technology.

But it’s more important than a tourist destination…now it’s also a space tourism jumping-off point.

Kerala Travels, the state’s first travel agency, is adding space tourism to its already comprehensive and expanding tourist travel programs here on Earth.

Kerala Travels has arranged with the Singapore Space Station for facilities and NASA for experts to give fledgling space travelers a thorough understanding of the world above.

Just how fledgling are these potential space travelers? Really, really fledgling.

According to Space-Travel.com, K. C. Chandrahasan (Chandru), Managing Director, Kerala Travels Interserve...

"...said 30 children in the age group 12 to 18 years would be selected from various parts of the country to be sent to the Singapore Space Centre (SSC) on April 27.

After their stint at Singapore Space Centre, plans will be made to send them to space."

We talked with Chandru to learn more about these plans.

Space Future Journal: We understand that you intend to expand your already extensive travel offerings into space tourism. What made you decide to go into the business of space tourism, especially in getting young people interested in space development and travel?

Chandru: We were the ones who had initiated many first in travel and tourism segments not only in Kerala but in India as well. [We] offer…Polar travel both to the Arctic and the Antarctic. The choice of space was automatically the next choice. Since it was futuristic we thought we will look at the future travelers, in this case, the college and high school students. This is the genesis of the project Saura Yaathrika, which means the space traveler in Sanskrit.

SFJ: How will the young people be selected to attend your proposed space camp?

Chandru: We are opening this to the age group of 14 to 18 and examinations will be held in 3 centres from where the students will be selected. This will be followed up by an interview after which the final students will be chosen. The parameters are being worked out. This process will excite the student community and will make them read and know more about the space, its thrills and opportunities.

SFJ: Who will be providing the funding for this experience?

Chandru: We will be subsidizing the travelers. We plan to fully take care of girl students from the Government schools. This is because the students from these schools are generally not that well-to-do. We are also planning to dedicate these in the name of late NASA. She was one of seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.)

SFJ: When the next phase occurs, what vehicles do you foresee as carrying the new tourists into space?

Chandru: We have really not thought about this. With the advancement of technology anything can happen in the sense the current formats need not be front-runners. An emerging technology can even overtake offering better economy

SFJ: What will be the destinations for these adventures--suborbital trips, orbital journeys, visits to the International Space Station?

Chandru: We are looking at one suborbital flight operator. This we will seriously try only next year. We are really not sure as of now whether the money spent and the experience would match. The choice of space was automatically the next choice.

The idea of generating interest in space travel with the future leaders of the world is an astute one. Although we want to go to space ourselves, we're supportive (and envious) of anyone who succeeds.

We thank Chandru for speaking with us, and we wish him and Kerala Travels the best in their new endeavor.
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G B Leatherwood 8 March 2011
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