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Her father Shyamal Sengupta is from West Bengal. Though born in Glasgow, Anita Sengupta has always held to her roots in Bengal. She later migrated to USA and started working with NASA at the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL). And now she has something to cherish as her project headed to space aboard the Antares rocket to the International Space Station (ISS). As Sengupta explains, the experiment uses lasers to slow atoms until they are motionless, cooling them to temperatures far below than what is possible on Earth. It could be 10 billion times colder than the vacuum of space, creating the coldest spot in the universe!

Sengupta did aerospace engineering with a Ph.D. from the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California. She had earlier pioneered the revolutionary supersonic parachute system, also known as the‘Seven minutes of Terror,’that was deployed during the landing of Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity. “Landing a rover with incredible precision on the surface of Mars is my favourite, the highlight of my career,” she once told IIT-Madras students on one of her visits to India.

On her new experiment, she is upbeat that the phenomenon of ‘Bose Einstein Condensate,’ which occurs just above absolute zero in the microgravity environment, can be studied better. Sengupta is currently the Senior Vice President of Systems Engineering at Virgin Hyperloop One, a Los Angeles-based tech company that has built the world’s first operational Hyperloop in Las Vegas.

When free, Sengupta, enjoys weekend rides with her sports bike in the Southern California mountains. For her, the sky is not the limit, but only the beginning. She also enjoys Bengali sweets, since the age of six, as she watched the ‘Star Trek’ reruns with her father and was fascinated by alien worlds and civilizations. It was right then that she decided to be a space explorer.