The Chirinjeev Kathuria Chat
Chirinjeev Kathuria, a Chicago-based doctor who gave up medicine to pursue business ventures in telecommunications, joined rediff.com for a chat on April 19, 2001.
Kathuria, telecom baron Walt Anderson and other businesspeople invested more than $30 million in MirCorp to commercialize space. Their plan was to use the Mir space station but it was de-orbited last month by Russia since it was old and expensive. But Kathuria and his associates fought for their dream.
"We feel like the Wright Brothers did," Kathuria says, calling his mission as the first effort to colonize space. MirCorp is still very much alive. It has teamed with the International Space Station, which various countries are part of.
MirCorp's first customer, California-based investment counselor Dennis Tito will travel on a Soyuz spacecraft this Saturday. In this chat, Kathuria shares his thoughts about space commercialization and his continuous quest... to find a wife!
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Hi, it is Chirinjeev Kathuria and I am pleased to be speaking to you today!
avijitghosh : Is everything on schedule for the April 28 launch?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Yes, everything is on schedule for the April 28th launch.
Jon : How are you doc?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I am fine. I am a medical doctor.
Shyam : Hello, Mr Kathuria.
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Hi Shyam
Shyam : Can I call you "Special K"
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Sure, is there any reason!
gurpreet : I want to become an astronaut. What do I have to do to qualify?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : There are several things you can do. One is apply to NASA or pay USD 20 million like Mr Tito. You can also go as a scientist.
richardroy : What are your hobbies?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Looking for a wife.
TorontoDesi : Dr, do you feel cheated by the Russians?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Why do you say that?
Meenakshi : How did you become interested in space programs?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I wanted to be an astronaut since I was a kid, and applied to NASA but never got accepted.
Jon : Dr K: Were you born in India? Or are you from here?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I was born in India and came to the US when I was eight months old.
Shyam : Special K: How did you become interested in Mir?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : It was a fascinating opportunity to privately begin a commercialization space
Meenakshi : Can you elaborate on the wife bit?
Dr Chirinjeev kathuria : Sure, I still have not found the right person. Maybe I should spend 1/3 of my day focusing on this as opposed to building new companies.
gurpreet : At what age I can apply to NASA or after what qualification can I go for it?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : You can begin to apply after high school.
richardroy : Don't you think space tourism is a risky business?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : The Russian space program has the safest track record in manned space exploration, with no fatalities for over 30 years.
Shyam : Dr. K: What kind of wife are you looking for? Do you believe in arranged marriages?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Someone special. I am open to everything!
Meenakshi : I read stories on Rediff -- they call you Space Cowboy -- do you like that?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I am not sure where that came from. I could think of better names like "Rocket Man" from Elton John's song.
TorontoDesi : Did you consider the end of Mir a personal loss? How much were you hurt in the pocket?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Walt Anderson, my partner, and myself invested close to USD 40 million. The Russian government has given MirCorp the right to build the Russian module on the International Space Station. Also, to continue our program on ISS, ie, citizen explorer, NBC show, etc. However, I wished the Mir had stayed in orbit.
Meenakshi : How old are you, doc?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : 35.
Meenakshi : Is Dennis Tito the only one who has paid money so far? Do you have other customers?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Yes, we do. We are doing a game show with the producer of Survivor to sent the winning contestant to space!
Shyam : How much training does it take to go to space?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Dennis Tito spent eight full months.
richardroy : How is space flight different from sub-orbital flights? Are you in the latter business as well?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Absolutely, we are only in manned space flights.
TorontoDesi : Are you upset at the Russians? Would you have kept Mir in space?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Yes and no. We knew going in we had a less than 20% chance of saving the Mir. The Russian did give us the module on ISS which is very beneficial to us.
gurpreet : I want to know how much initial expenses will be there.
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I would ask NASA. It is the schooling expense and no certainty that you will ever get to fly!
TorontoDesi : What about underwater projects? Would you look into the other "unexplored frontier"?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I have enough to do with MirCorp. The oceans do not fascinate me.
Meenakshi : Are you a fan of Star Trek?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : and Voyager.
gurpreet : Why were you interested only in becoming an astronaut.
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I also love being a doctor and entrepreneur.
Shyam : Is it hard to find a good woman?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Of course, that is why I am not married. If you introduce me to someone I marry I will take to one of our manned space launches.
sardar : So, are you in telecom or space exploration or what?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I use the money I make in telecom to continue and fund space exploration.
spaceenthu : I am curious to know what is driving you. What is your ultimate objective?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Space has always excited me. I honestly think private space exploration is in the best interest of the human race i.e. preventing meteors from hitting the earth, industrial production.
TorontoDesi : Dr, some people say that commercializing space is bad. What's your opinion?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I can't see what are their reasons.
richardroy : NASA had some initial objection to putting a tourist on the ISS which is yet to be complete. Is it ok now?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Their objections are justified, we need to define the protocols and safety issues. The discussions are still going on and will continue on April 20th via teleconference
Meenakshi : When you say telecom -- have you given up being a doctor?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Unfortunately, yes, there is enough time to do everything
Shyam : Do you like Clint Eastwood, he was great in Space Cowboys -- I think that's where your nickname came too.
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I did like the movie, only I am not as old.
spaceenthu : Do you really think so? See, what we humans have done to the earth (thanks to industrialization) -- poor air quality, urban problems. Why should we contribute to the space debris (which we have already contributed to quite a bit, thanks to space explorations of past 4 decades).
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Actually space is endless and solar systems as far as 10 billion years light years have been discovered.
TorontoDesi : You get a lot done -- how do you do it?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I do not sleep enough.
TorontoDesi : Any tips on accomplishing goals?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Do something you are passionate about?
Jon : What is the key to success?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I think it is being happy and if you fail learn from it. The old Chines proverb 'Our greatest glory lies not in never falling, but rising everytime we fall'.
Shyam : I think it's not having a woman who's nagging you!!!
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : What do you mean by that!
Shyam : Are you a physician?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : yes
gurpreet : I am 9yrs old so I am very curious about it, I want to know is there any exam to pass to apply for NASA?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Yes, you have to take the exam that NASA administers.
Shyam : What languages do you speak, doc?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : A little French and English and American.
anilwa : Dr. Is there any age after which one cannot begin space research? Does one HAVE to start earlly
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : You are correct. Dennis Tito is 59 years old and he is going up. John Glen I think was close to 70.
Meenakshi : What region of India are you from?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : From Delhi and Punjab.
spaceenthu : Would you like to set up a company in space yourself?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : We already have, called MirCorp.
Meenakshi : Aren't there good women there?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Where is there?
TorontoDesi : What would be the first thing you did if you were in space?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I would enjoy the view of the earth.
TorontoDesi : I am interested in deep space exploration. There are projects about building colonies on Mars. Have you looked into them?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I am open. However, first steps first! I have to build my new module and Mir 2.
Meenakshi : In Punjab and Delhi?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Born in Delhi and parents from Punjab,
anilwa : Is there any really good site for someone to study about developments in space research... Something really extensive?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : www.space.com
ab : Are you interested in women other than Indian? If yes, which nationalities or race?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I am open to any race.
richardroy : Where in Punjab do your parents come from?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Chandigarh.
richardroy : Where are you based? Since MirCorp hq is in Amsterdam?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Chicago, yes, and Moscow.
gurpreet : Will I have to choose some particular subjects in my high school.
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Not really, however, physics, mathematics are helpful.
richardroy : Was your father a doctor too?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : My mother.
TorontoDesi : Okay Dr, a fun question ... What about extra-terrestrial life? Do they interest you? What would you do if you met one :) ?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Yes, it is probably naive to believe with solar systems as far away as 10 billion light years we are the only intelligent life.
anilwa : Are you doing anything to help organisations like ISRO extend their capabilities? It's understandable that someone who loves challenges would seek out the best but I guess its people who decide who's best anyway. It's kinda like a cycle, rite. So how do you suppose organisations like ISRO can move bigger and beyond?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : We are talking to ISRO at present.
richardroy : And your father?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Engineer.
gurpreet : Is there any admission criteria other than passing the exam?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I think if you write to NASA they will tell you the exact requirement as I do not know them as they have changed when I applied.
Meenakshi : Do you find it difficult to find women because you fear they are after your money?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : I am not sure.
richardroy : Have you dealt with any Indian organisation or a corporate company for matters related to space tourism?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Not yet.
richardroy : What are you speaking to ISRO for?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : All sort of possibilities, joining us on our new module as India is not a part of ISS.
Jon : You should be like Hugh Hefner - have seven babes!
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : He wants to go up with a ______
TorontoDesi : Does the vastness of space ever make you contemplate your own existence?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Of course.
Jon : Hef's the man -- at 75, no less!
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : Do you want to be like him?
TorontoDesi : Today in Wired there is a report about NASA, NASA and partners are working on a new aircraft that could reach speeds of over 6,500 miles per hour ... are you involved?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : NASA is not interested in private parties at present.
richardroy : When and why did your parents migrate?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : 1964.
gurpreet : How did you enter this field?
Dr. Chirinjeev kathuria : When I was a child I watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon and never forgot it.
TorontoDesi : Dr, do you ever consider the irony in countries like India having space programs when a single earthquake can kill so many of its people? ... Your comments?
Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria : I Know what you are saying. That is why we should encourage private funding like MirCorp
Shyam : Will Tito run into any trouble on the 28th?
Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria : Hopefully not.
Shyam : How long does it take to reach space?
Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria : It takes two hours you travel at 17,000 miles an hour. However, it takes two days to reach the speed that it takes to rendezvous with the space station.
Hash : Is Tito's space journey going to be a reality show??
Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria : The NBC/Surivor show will be.
TorontoDesi : Dr, did you read the story in Wired today about Tito?
Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria : Didn't see that one.
Meenakshi : Tito rhymes with Ito!
Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria : That's interesting!
Meenakshi : The Judge!
Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria : ??? Last couple of questions
TorontoDesi : The president of the Canadian Space Agency said that full testing of a Canada-made robotic arm may be delayed until after Tito's visit. But Russia, which is getting about $20 million from Tito to make the trip aboard the Soyuz craft, gave the go-ahead last week, prompting a meeting at Cape Canaveral of international experts aimed at ensuring safety during the mission. "Nobody's saying he's going to get in the way," said Mac Evans, president of the Canadian Space Agency. "The question is what things would have to take place to ensure the safety of the people and the equipment."
Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria : This is true. It was decided yesterday that Dennis is still going.
gurpreet : How much time will it take to train after high school to go in space?
Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria : At least 4-8 years
Shyam : How cheap can space travel become in 10-12 years?
Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria : $ 100,000
Shyam : Thanks for chatting today, doc. it was great talking to a gentleman like yourself who is accomplished and down to earth at the same time (poor choice of words, i suppose!).
Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria : Your welcome and thanks for the kind words
Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria : Goodbye and "live long and prosper."