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India’s would-be space tourist gets tips from Kalam

By Liz Mathew
New Delhi : Counting the months till he lifts off into space as India’s first tourist, Santhosh George Kulangara Thursday got some vital tips on the vast extraterrestrial canvas from President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

For Santhosh, who is gearing up for his space trip with Virgin Galetic’s space ship – a venture of Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic -, President Kalam was his “teacher” during the 20 minutes he spent with him in Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

“In fact those 20 minutes were very educative for me. I really gathered a lot of information from him as I am just a layman, who is interested in travelling,” Santhosh told IANS after the meeting.

“He told me mine would be a vertical take off unlike the research-oriented space ship launches and about the sub-orbital flight etc.,” he said.

The president did not hide his love for the youth of the country and his dreams for them. “He was very keen that I should picturise the entire trip for children,” Santhosh said.

Producer of “Sancharam”, a popular weekly travel programme being aired on Asianet channel in Malayalam, Santhosh was advised by Kalam to make the programme in such a way that it would be “informative” for the children.

“He wanted me to make and show the programme in schools across the country so that the children would be informed about the space programmes,” he said.

The president also insisted that Santhosh meet Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman G. Madhavan Nair, before he makes his trip next year.

“According to the president, India has great scope in the field. He said the country should explore the possibilities of space tourism, especially after its successful maiden launch of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C8),” Santhosh said.

India has last week launched the PSLV C-8, placing itself among the countries that can place in orbit a commercial primary satellite belonging to an international party.

Kalam was quick in inviting Santhosh for a meeting immediately after he had been shortlisted along with 37 others for the trip.

Santhosh would be soon leaving for US to have zero gravity experience at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

Santhosh, 35, who has travelled to 50 countries, had paid $200,000 to book himself a place on the trip.