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Apurva Varia, a deaf engineer who served as a Mission Operations Director at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, passed away on Wednesday, April 24.

“He was an incredibly kind, humble, and warmhearted person, and a valued champion for NASA-Gallaudet collaboration on astronautical accessibility research with the School of Science, Technology, Accessibility, Mathematics, and Public Health,” says Dr. Raja Kushalnagar, director of the B.S. in Information Technology and M.S. in Accessible Human-Centered Computing programs.

Man in glasses wears a flight suit with the Gallaudet logo on the chest just above his name, "Apurva."
Apurva Varia participated in the zero-gravity AstroAccess flight in 2021. At the top, he is pictured at NASA headquarters earlier this month.

Earlier this month, Varia had met with Gallaudet students and faculty during a visit to NASA headquarters, where he emphasized the benefits of interning and working at the agency.

Varia had dreamed about going into space since childhood. During college, he found an internship through Gallaudet with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. That experience led to a permanent position in 2002. On October 17, 2021, Varia was one of 12 ambassadors with disabilities on the AstroAccess zero-gravity airplane flight to help determine how to adapt spacecraft for disabled astronauts. In an interview about the experience, he said, “I know it wasn’t actually going to space, but I still achieved my dream of feeling weightless. It was such an amazing feeling. But my main goal really was to help broaden the opportunities for disabled people to get into space.”

Donations in Varia’s memory may be made to the Metro South Asian Deaf Association and AstroAccess.

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