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Param Nair: Around the World Adventure Travel Log
October 25, 2013

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Adventure traveler Param Nair lives by one rule: “You have one life to live, so make the most of it.”

Operations Researcher Param Nair is the Goddard representative for Joint Confidence Level assessments. A JCL assessment determines the probability that a project will meet its target cost and finish at or ahead of its target schedule. Nair also leads the Flight Projects Directorate’s cost estimating team tasked with developing and recommending best practices for projects in areas such as basis of estimates and work breakdown structure.

8° 30' 24" N / 76° 57' 24": Born in Trivandrum, India. Operations Research Analyst Param Nair grew up in India, Singapore and Malaysia. His father was in the Indian Merchant Marine and later in shipping management in Malaysia. 

27°59′17″N 86°55′31″E: A class trip included a visit to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. “People who physically achieve things are heroes to most kids,” recalls Nair. “I was so inspired by the fact that these people pushed themselves to climb mountains.”

41° 53' 51" N / 84° 2' 14" W: Attended College in Michigan and South Carolina.  Recalls Nair, “On the eve of my departure from Asia, my father gave me three bits of advice. First, study hard. Two, take care of your health. And three, travel as much as possible.” 

41° 42' 27" N / 86° 53' 42" W: June 1992 – Wreck dive in Lake Michigan. “The water was freezing and pitch black,” recalls Nair. “Not every adventure is necessarily pleasant.”

36° 3' 14" N / 112° 8' 16" W: December 1996 – Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. “On the way back, the trail was slushy with mud and ice, so I had to crawl,” recalls Nair. “The best advice I got then was from a Park Ranger who told me to look just to the next turn and not at the distant rim.”

42° 49' 0" N / 1° 38' 0" W: July 1999 – Running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. “I was scared of the bulls but I was more scared of the other runners who were mostly drunk. The street was covered with sticky beer and broken bottles. There was only one way to go – with the crowd until it thinned out,” Nair said.

3°4′33″S 37°21′12″E: December 1999 – Nair did a “Millennium” Climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro. “It’s on the equator so there are no seasons. Kili is fascinating because it has five distinct climates and associated vegetation ranging from tropical plants on the bottom to snow and ice on the peak. You start at midnight to arrive at sunrise because if you happen to climb during daylight, you’d never want to attempt it. The last 200 feet was especially challenging because of low levels of oxygen and took longer than I expected. Sunrise on the top of Africa is exhilarating,” said Nair.

“African National Parks are among the best in the world and I have visited 18 so far,” said Nair. Before the climb, he visited the Serengeti. “I was in the tent one night. I heard a deep, guttural growling and was scared. The next morning I learned that five lions had walked through the camp. Apparently, the armed guards had orders to shoot but only to prevent an imminent attack,” said Nair. He also visited Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Parks in Tanzania. “I was fortunate to see ‘the Big Five’ – lions, elephants, leopards, cape buffalo and rhinos,”  said Nair.

34° 44' 0" S / 135° 52' 0" E: July 2000 – After working for a Fortune 100 company for ten years, Nair began a year-long tour around the world starting with swimming with the Great White sharks in Port Lincoln, Australia. Nair and another American were in a cage with bars all around except for directly in front, which was four inches of glass. Recalls Nair, “We attracted the sharks by chumming the water. One shark got excited and hit the cage. Being four inches apart from a man-eating machine was exciting!”

4°17′N 73°50′E: May 2001 – Night scuba dive in the Maldives. “It was pitch dark except for our flashlights and it was truly a fascinating, if alien, environment,” said Nair.

17°55′28″S 25°51′24″E: June 2001- August 2001 – Backpacking across southern Africa. While there, he saw a total solar eclipse in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe. “The eclipse was in the mid-afternoon,” remembers Nair.  “Suddenly it became darker and colder. The birds stopped chirping. It lasted about 20 minutes. Mana Pools permits visitors to leave the vehicle and walk, so my guide and I followed a bull elephant.” From Mana Pools, he went to Victoria Falls. “It’s a really beautiful spot about ten times the size of the Niagara Falls,” he says. “At nearby Hwange National Park, it was a real treat to see two young bull elephants lock horns just in front of our vehicle.”

31° 46' 48" N / 35° 13' 48" E: September 11, 2001 – In Jerusalem for a friend’s wedding. Says Nair, “The irony was that my family was worried about my going to the dangerous Middle East.” 

39° 0' 15" N / 76° 52' 32" W: July 2002 – Began working at Goddard. “Within a month of coming to Goddard, I met my wife who is Japanese. Our kids are fluent in English, Malayalam and Japanese. Instead of swimming with Great White sharks, we go to zoos and aquariums,” said Nair.

“When you’re young, go for it,” advises Nair. While waiting for his kids to grow old enough to travel with him, he hopes to write a travel chronicle based on his 76 albums of 28,000 photos and about 200 home videos.

To explore more about Nair’s work, read his Conversations with Goddard article at: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/about/people/PNair.html.

Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

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Param Nair at a warthog's den
Param Nair at a warthog's den in Mana Pools National Park near Zimbabwe.
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Courtesy of P. Nair
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Crossing the Colorado River
Param Nair crossing the Colorado River near Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon.
Image Credit: 
Courtesy of P. Nair
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Viewing a great white shark
Param Nair viewing a great white shark from the safety of a specially designed cage. This image was taken off Port Lincoln, Australia.
Image Credit: 
Courtesy of P. Nair
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Total eclipse
Image of a total eclipse taken by Param Nair at 3:15 pm at Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe.
Image Credit: 
Courtesy of P. Nair
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Page Last Updated: October 28th, 2013
Page Editor: Lynn Jenner