After Kalpana Chawla, Indian-origin Sirisha Bandla will become the second Indian-born woman to fly into space later this month. Bandla will be one of the six space travellers aboard ‘VSS Unity’ of Virgin Galactic, scheduled to blast off to space on July 11 from New Mexico. As part of the six-member crew alongside the founder of Virgin Galactic Richard Branson, Bandla’s role will be that of a researcher experience. The spaceflight will make the 34-year-old aeronautical engineer, who graduated from Purdue University, the second Indian-born woman to go into space after Kalpana Chawla and the fourth Indian to fly into space.
The Virgin Galactic mission will take off nine days ahead of the departure of billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ trip to space, which was announced last month. Sharing the news on her Twitter, Bandla shared she was “incredibly honoured" to be part of the crew.
I am so 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. https://t.co/sPrYy1styc— Sirisha Bandla (@SirishaBandla) July 2, 2021
Virgin Galactic too, shared a photo of the crew with Bandla featuring in it.
Our first fully crewed rocket powered test flight is planned to take place on July 11th with two pilots and four mission specialists including @RichardBranson onboard. If we were flying your crew, who’d be floating in zero gravity next to you? Tag your astronauts! #Unity22 pic.twitter.com/3FTCls7A4W
— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) July 2, 2021
Bandla was born in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh and grew up in Houston, Texas, said a report in Economic Times. Bandla started working at Virgin Galactic in 2015 and is currently vice president of government affairs at the company. She is a graduate in aeronautical engineering from Purdue University and also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Georgetown University. Prior to working at Virgin Galactic, she worked as an aerospace engineer in Texas, following which she had a job in space policy at the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF).
“Of course, the coolest thing is that she gets to hobnob with Richard Branson! We all are very proud of her and wishing her safe travels!’’ Sirisha’s relative Ramarao Kanneganti told India Today. During her stay in the US, Sirisha has also been closely associated with the Telugu Association of North America (TANA), which is the oldest and biggest Indo-American organization in North America.
Sirisha will be the second Indian-born woman in Space, and the fourth Indian overall in space. She is preceded by Rakesh Sharma, Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams.