“It takes courage to be different.” Aastha Kacha, award-winning space architect
Conversation about the colonization of Earth’s orbit and the furthest parts of space was considered the perfect fodder for science fiction. But, more recently, these discussions have been given greater consideration and are now more prominent than ever before. At the forefront of innovation is the notion of space architecture, which is the theory and practice of designing and building inhabited environments in outer space.
Award-winning space architect, TEDx speaker and philanthropist, Aastha Kacha, is a passionate advocate for human settlement in space. Her work, which focuses on developing artificial intelligence habitats that can be deployed on the Moon and Mars, is pioneering, often redefining what is known about human settlement in space. Her goal to become a pioneer in habitation for future space missions, will draw global attention from prominent organizations such as NASA, Canadian Space Agency and SpaceX. Additionally, in 2021, Aastha was awarded the Global Icon Award for India's youngest Icon in Space Architecture.
Aastha also seeks to utilize this knowledge back on Earth and has created several philanthropic projects, which focus on building affordable housing, through her startup, AAKA Space Studio. The initiative was founded and established in Canada.
Summarizing her ambition in a single sentence, Aastha says: “I have the vision to serve our world with my highest form of intelligence, compassion, and service.”
At 13 years old, Aastha won an award for designing a lunar base as part of a competition held by the NASA Space Academy. Following this impressive achievement, Aastha knew that she wanted to become an architect.
She says: “When I got the award is when I got into my mind that I wanted to become an architect. To design and to build, but to also differentiate myself from other architects, and so I decided I should become a space architect.”
To Aastha, space architecture is a unique industry, which merges design and engineering with social and environmental concerns.
She continues: “Space architecture is basically the subject of designing and the practice of building inhabited environments, considering various factors such as psychology, sociology, physiology, combined along with engineering and design
“You might have seen the international space station, that is also a part of a space architecture. Space architects plan, evaluate and design everything that has to go within a spacecraft like the designs and habitable volume space such as those that would go in the spacecraft for the future lunar and Martian habitats.”
So, are there comparisons between habitats on Earth and the terrestrial?
She explains: “Space habitats mostly have a lot of similarities to that of habitats on the Earth because, just like the terrestrial habitats, we also have washrooms, kitchens, and we also integrate live system supports and various kinds of labs such as our bio lab chemical lab. So, what we design has a lot of involvement of system engineering and relies on engineering and design combined.”
When asked about the people who have influenced her career, Aastha cites Valentina Tereshkova, who was the first woman to enter space at the age of 25, and Elon Musk. Aastha states that while the latter does not have a PhD degree, he was tenacious enough to self-educate to a level where his work in space exploration is considered pioneering.
She adds: “People who feel that it is possible and have the courage to pursue finding the pathway from impossible to possible are the people who inspire me tremendously. But something [else] that has guided me is my intuition.”
For Aastha, leading how to navigate challenges comes with pursuing your passion and can offer crucial lessons and insight. But she also believes that keeping a clear goal in mind is the key to minimizing distractions and prevents any deviation from a chosen path.
She says: “It is so important to have a vision for yourself because your vision decides the purpose of your life. And when you know what exactly your purpose [in] life is, you can stay focused towards that. When you have a clear vision for yourself, it helps you to find that pathway to what you are pursuing.”
While Aastha faced issues obtaining citizenship in the United States, she was able to establish her startup in Canada. To date, the company’s services are split across five principal branches, which cover both Earth and orbital pursuits. These divisions include space architecture services, space interior design, architectural design focused on affordable housing, space marketing designed to support startup space firms with any marketing needs, and space architectural training, which is designed to educate people about space architecture and how to overcome challenges.
As part of AAKA Space Studio’s affordable homes initiative, and in support of women in the industry, the company is seeking to provide free courses to refugee women and girls in Canada or the United States.
Aastha, who is excited about the enthusiasm and determination shown by young people who have taken an interest in the space sector, urges youngsters to “keep the courage to be different”.
She continues: “If you are coming into [the] space [sector], that means you are definitely not going to have an easy time at work. You will be different, and you will be criticized, and you will fail a lot, many times, and sometimes you will get demotivated. But it takes courage to be different. It takes courage to continue after facing those challenges. So, overall, keep going all the way out and don't quit in the middle.”
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