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Learning experience of a Virtual Analog Astronaut in MMAARS program, Sharayu Jakkampudi

I’ve always been interested in space as a child, and it’s mostly been influenced by TV shows and movies. One day, my mom came across AVS Academies' post about an “MMAARS Virtual Training” program. I was quite excited at first, and I was eager to sign up. A few days before the program started, I was nervous, wondering what the standards were. Before I knew it, the next 12 days began.

The first thing we were told to do before the first day was to pick out our animal names. We were told to choose an animal that we felt expressed us. I was confused, what expressed me? After thinking for a while, I chose a penguin. Penguins can go months without food protecting their child, while their mate goes to find food. I thought that was very cool, that an animal could stay so dedicated. I sometimes struggle with staying focused on a task, and staying dedicated. I remember learning in school that some people associate penguins with dreams, resourcefulness and community. I felt those were some traits that were needed to be successful.

We had classes for 12 consecutive days, and we learned multiple things, a different topic every day. We would first start off the class with our pledges, then continue on to the lesson. We would do for MMAARS handshake to end the class. After the zoom call was over, we would have homework assignments on CANVAS, and it would have vocabulary words, guiding questions and preparation for the next lesson. I learned a variety of things, like EVAs, what an IVA is, space food, and many more. A few things that we learned at first that stayed with us for the next few days were the 3 P’s and 5 C’s. The 3 P’s were Physical, Physiological, and Physiological. The 4 C’s were Collaboration, Communication, Cooperation and Cohesion. The first few days, I was very worried, I wondered if my answers to the homework assignments would be good enough, and if I would get good marks.

I think the most memorable moment I had in the Virtual training level 1 was The Lunar Hackathon. I’ve seen a hackathon online before, but this was my first one. We only had 2 days to create a presentation about our lunar crater, a presentation on the topic we were given, write a 500 word essay, and make a recording with us presenting our presentations. Unfortunately, our team did not win the hackathon, but it was a good experience, and I will definitely look back on it. My Martian crew was amazing, and I was on crew Chryse-Planitia. I spent the majority of my time with this crew and we had wonderful teamwork. I have made a few friends as well through this program, and I hope to stay in touch with them. I think even though some situations were stressful, I could get through them, because of my trainer. I had many questions and doubts during this journey and my trainer was always there for me. Many people in the program were in different time zones, and sometimes it was hard to find a time where everyone could meet to discuss things we had to do, but our trainer was always there for us, and was always online. I could see their time zone, and they would stay up very late, and join our zoom calls, and help us. Those 12 days were so much fun, and I really enjoyed it.

I want to thank Mr. Kiran Palla, founder of AVS Academy for giving me this opportunity. I would also like to thank my trainer (Tiger) for always being amazing, and Dr. Susan (Chinthe) for teaching us so many amazing things. Last but not least, I would like to thank all my crewmembers, and everyone I’ve worked with in this program for always helping out and being extraordinary crewmates. I think this was a wonderful journey, and I will always remember it. I am looking forward to many more opportunities!