Meet the girl who wants to be the first Indian woman on Mars

She's only 16, but Thendral Kamal has mapped her future out already

Everyone agrees Thendral Kamal is well equipped for a career exploring the stars.

That is why one young girl in a unique space suit recently stood out from the crowd at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre’s Science Event this week.

“The suit was my sweet 16 birthday gift from my dad,” says Thendral.

“They say dress for the job you want, and that is what I want … to be the first Indian women on Mars.”

And she is on the right course.

The 16-year-old at Sharjah International Indian school recently won the Petrofac Young Scientist Award in recognition of her research work in astrophysics.

Last October, Thendral was on board a UAE zero gravity flight in a jet in Florida.

“I won a research competition [sponsored] by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, where I got the chance to do a scientific experiment on a parabolic flight while experiencing three different types of gravity,” she said.

“I was happy to see that, step-by-step,  I’m getting closer to my dreams.”

Thendral also volunteered for a three-month spell at Sharjah Centre for Astronomy and Space Sciences.

“After finishing my volunteering, I decided to start my own astrophysics club at my school.”

For the club’s first session she ran a workshop about Earth’s place in the universe, and introduced members to the Milky Way galaxy and our Solar System.

A curiosity about the night sky is what first attracted Thendral to space.

“At the age of 10, I looked through a telescope for the first time,” she says.

“I looked at our natural satellite, the pale green Moon. There was something magical and ethereal about the Moon that fascinated me, and I decided that very moment that someday I was going to step foot on that.

“Eventually my horizons expanded and ambitions grew until I realised that I wanted to be the first Indian woman on Mars.”

Thendral says that while pointing to a patch on her suit embroidered with the words Generation Mars, which is an organisation that aims to spread interest in youngsters to take up STEM courses – a curriculum based on educating pupils in four specific disciplines - science, technology, engineering and maths.

The suit’s other patch has the name Kamal written over a drawing of her in an astronaut helmet.

“I saw her strong passion, and it was always on mind that she needed a real astronaut costume,” her father said.

“This suit was just the perfect birthday gift to show that I support her fully in her ambitions.”