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.
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).
Back home in India, her grandfather shares his excitement: “I’m very happy. From the beginning, she was very fascinated with the sky. Now she’s going to space with five other members. She is brave and strong in decision-making," Dr Ragaiah tells ANI. “I, along with my friends and relatives, wish her a successful and happy return to the land after completion of her journey," he added.
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.
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.