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(Minor) Planet-winning Essay

Lincoln Lab Minor Planet Honour Certificate (2002)Lincoln Lab Minor Planet Honour Certificate (2002)

As a participant at the Intel ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) 2002, I was told that MIT's Lincoln Lab was looking to award science project at the fair (based on performance and a written essay) by naming a Minor Planet after their respective students. My project was IDMS:Intelligent Document Management System, and my essay is given below.

The minor planet 12599 Singhal can be tracked in the JPL Small-body database, and has documented on Wikipedia, Economic Times, Times of India, The Hindu, Ahimsa Times, and Rajasthan Dept. Of Science and Technology.

My Essay (titled Why the Ceres Connection Minor Planet honour is important to me):

In these times, earning honour and prizes is an easy task for every exceptionally hardworking student. In today’s world, if you’re a hardworking student, you surely have a room full of merchandise and folders full of certificates. While there may be a lot of fun and happiness in such awards, and indeed some of them hold great honour, nothing, I believe, can compare with the honour and happiness associated with having a minor planet named after you. It automatically guarantees you the title of ‘star’ when newspapers write about you, and that too without recording a pop-album or running for a role in a movie.
I do imagine great rewards for myself which this honour can bring me. In eastern countries, especially India, we do a lot of astrology based on stars. Almost everyone here believes that fate is controlled by stars, and many people do detailed studies on how to tell someone’s future based on the positions of main planets. If one day this ‘science’ extends to the level of minor planets, I could be bigger than a celebrity! I mean, people’s fates would be decided in my name. If my planet brings bad luck, people would dread my name like they dread the name Alzheimer, and if its lucky, they’d embrace it like they embrace Linus Torvald’s Linux.
I also see the possibility of the naming of a whole race of aliens on my name. After all, the space could be holding many science-fiction-type secrets for us, which could also mean that my minor planet could be the home of an alien race, and if that race is discovered, it’ll be a great honour to have a population of a few million creatures after my name. Not to mention, their alien leaders may also give me some ‘foreign’ gifts if they discover they are known under my name on Earth. What the press would think about this and write about this, would be a different matter altogether – I already feel swollen with pride on that thought.
Minor Planet DetailsMinor Planet Details
Till the time aliens are not discovered and astrology doesn’t touch my planet, there would still be a lot of happiness in this honour. The honour would be intrinsic gratification to all of my effort that could get me to this opportunity, and would motivate me for greater goals in life. If the other variables remain same, the honour can give me the foundation to become a good scientist in my professional life, and it can also serve as an inspiration to the other bright students of my state who are striving for success in science and technology. The work this honour might do in this way, could be greater than what it can do with aliens and astrology.
If I get this honour, it would give me a lot of popularity and fame all my life, it would give me great pleasure in the end of my life, when I could be saying – “Yes, little boy, that is grandpa’s planet… right there.”
That, is how I feel the Ceres Connection Minor Planet honour is important to me.

Akshat Singhal,
(Intel 2002 ISEF student finalist),
India