As a little girl, Neharika Trishala Singh used to save her pocket money to buy books on space adventures and exploration.
The Pacific Islander is now living her dream. The 23-year-old Fijian works for the National Aeronautic and Space Administration’s L’SPACE Academy.
She may not be an astronaut but reaching this level is what she had always wanted. She is part of a team designing rovers to explore the Earth’s moon.
“When I came to America, I planned on becoming a veterinarian. However, after interning at an emergency hospital for animals and almost passing out, I realised that I was not cut out to be a doctor,” Ms Singh said.
“My family whom I reside in the States with, especially my aunt and uncle, played a major part in guiding me in my journey.
“It was a rough road. I worked two to three jobs as a cashier, a waitress and a barista, sometimes all in a day to support myself and pay for my necessities and a boot-camp training program which I was attending on the recommendation of my aunt as a starting point to my career.”
Her parents had parted ways soon after her birth and there was little to no support from them. But Ms Singh is glad that her aunt and uncle stood by her.
“I eventually landed a position as an Information Security Engineer after I graduated from the boot-camp. I finally had the proper income to afford university here,” she said.
“During this time I applied for an experience with the NASA L’SPACE Academy and I was accepted for the opportunity. I couldn’t be happier and I have stuck with them since.
“It was always a dream of mine to be a part of NASA from as long as I can remember. I was always inspired by my uncle who did cancer research.”
Ms Singh was raised by her grandparents, who took her in after her parents parted ways. In 2014 tragedy struck again when her grandmother died and she had to move in with her aunt and uncle. She finished school in 2018 and a year later found herself moving to the United States.
“It was a major culture shock for me at first because I am a shy and reserved individual. In America, the way of life is the total opposite. It was as if I had to learn everything again,” said Ms Singh.
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“My source of motivation in life was my great-grandmother who in her time, was a strong hard working woman who never gave up. I was inspired by the values that both my grandmother and great-grandmother instilled in me.
“When I got to the US my aunt took me in and fulfilled the space of a mother and my role model. She always believed in my abilities and she has played a huge part in my success here.”
Space exploration and working with NASA was something Ms Singh had always wanted to do.
When the opportunity for an internship with the NASA L’SPACE Academy came, she was over the moon.
“I was essentially part of two different teams. I was involved with extensive researching, scoring and the writing of proposals for NASA that could potentially be funded for further research,” she said.
“In the current team, we are working on developing a mission concept with careful research which on high level deals with the exploration of the moon. We are tasked with coming up with the mission concept of a rover that will attempt to study the moon’s surface.”
The shy girl from Fiji is literally spreading her wings and flying. Next on her list is getting a pilot’s license.
“I intend to work my way through various ratings towards obtaining a test pilot certification. Essentially, a test pilot is responsible for evaluation and flight tests of experimental, new aircrafts or modifications of an existing model,” she said.
“This will go along nicely with my Computer Engineering degree towards development and the testing of space flight systems in the future for any given space organization.”
Ms Singh believes that anyone who is motivated and dedicated enough can follow their dreams and turn them into a reality.
“I would say that if you have a dream, no matter how impossible it seems, don’t limit yourself. There is no defined path set in stone to get to your goal,” she said.
“Do what you must to get there and never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something because you are weak. Keep fighting hard for your dreams.”