Sirisha Bandla becomes second Indian-born woman to fly to space: All you need to know!

Sirisha Bandla was one of the six crew members aboard Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic flight, which flew to the edge of space before returning to the Earth. 

Created On: Jul 12, 2021 12:32 IST
VSS Unity Crew, Source: Twitter
VSS Unity Crew, Source: Twitter

Indian-origin Sirisha Bandla became the second Indian-born woman to fly into space on July 11, 2021. She flew to the edge of space aboard billionaire Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic flight ‘VSS Unity’. 

Sirisha Bandla was one of the six crew members aboard Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic flight, which flew to the edge of space before returning to the Earth. 

The Virgin Galactic rocket flew high above New Mexico in the US and returned to the Earth just an hour after leaving the ground.
Sir Richard in a  press conference after the flight called the trip the "experience of a lifetime".

He said "I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid, but honestly nothing can prepare you for the view of Earth from space. The whole thing was just magical."

Significance 

Bandla has become the second woman born in India to go to space after Kalpana Chawla, who had died when the Columbia Space Shuttle disintegrated at re-entry in 2003.

The 34-year-old's presence on the historic trip stirred a lot of excitement among Indians, especially among those in the state of Andhra Pradesh where she was born.

Vice President Venkaiah Naidu tweeted that "her achievement will motivate many more young girls in India and abroad to take up challenging careers"

Industrialist Anand Mahindra also tweeted saying that "Indian women are not just breaking glass ceilings - they're literally dismantling ALL ceilings on this planet and rocketing into space."

Who is Sirisha Bandla?  

• Sirisha Bandla is the Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations at Virgin Galactic, the company that has made the spacecraft.

• She was born in Tenali, a city in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. She was raised in Houston, Texas in the United States of America.

Speaking on the mission earlier, Bandla has that she is incredibly honored to be a part of the amazing crew of #Unity22, and to be a part of a company whose mission is to make space available to all. She will be astronaut number 4 on the crew.

Unity 22 mission: All you need to know

• Billionaire Richard Branson's "Unity 22" mission aboard Virgin Galactic flight, VSS Unity- a suborbital rocket-powered spaceplane reached the height of 85km (282,000ft; 53 miles).

• The 70-year-old founder of Virgin Galactic traveled to space as a mission specialist in the six-member team of the "Unity 22" mission.

• He was accompanied by pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci and three Galactic employees, chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett and Sirisha Bandla.

• The Indian-origin astronaut was given the researcher experience profile on the Unity 22 mission. She was responsible for evaluating the human-tended research experience, using an experiment from the University of Florida that requires several handheld fixation tubes that were activated at various points in the flight profile.

• The Virgin Galactic test flight on July 11 was the twenty-second flight test for VSS Unity and the fourth crewed spaceflight of Virgin Galactic. 

After the flight, Richard Branson tweeted saying, "Welcome to the dawn of a new space age."

Five facts you need to know!

1. Sirisha Bandla became the second India-born woman to fly to space. 

2. Bandla also became the fourth Indian to fly into space.

3. The other Indians who went to space include Rakesh Sharma, Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams.

4. Richard Branson became the first billionaire to fly to space.

5. The world's richest man, Jeff Bezos is scheduled to fly into space aboard New Shepard rocket on July 20 from Van Horn, Texas.

Who was the first India-born woman to fly to space?

Kalpana Chawla was the first woman of Indian origin to go to space. She was the first woman of Indian origin to go to space and first flew to space on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator.

Her second flight was the final flight of Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003. On February 1, 2003, the ill-fated space shuttle disintegrated during its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, killing all the seven crew members on board including Kalpana Chawla. She was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Background

UK billionaire and founder of Virgin Galactic company, Sir Richard Branson had first announced his intention to make a space plane in 2004, with the belief that he could start a commercial service to space by 2007.

However, the space projects became one of the most challenging ventures of his career due to technical difficulties and a fatal crash during a development flight in 2014.

The billionaire announced this year on June 2nd that he will fly to the edge of space on July 11th. He had tweeted saying, "I've always been a dreamer. My mum taught me to never give up and to reach for the stars. On July 11, it's time to turn that dream into a reality aboard the next @VirginGalactic spaceflight."

This was Virgin Galactic's first fully crewed rocket-powered test flight. It comes after over 16 years of research, engineering, and testing. The company aims to make space available for all. 

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