Sirisha Bandla will be the second Indian-born woman to go into space after Kalpana Chawla. (Screenshot/@virgingalactic)
Indian American astronaut Sirisha Bandla will fly to space with Richard Branson in Virgin Galactic’ VSS Unity, scheduled to blast off on July 11 from New Mexico.
Bandla, born in India and grew up in Texas will be the second Indian-born woman to go into space after Kalpana Chawla and the fourth Indian to fly into space. The other two Indians who flew into space were Rakesh Sharma and Sunita Lyn Williams.
As astronaut number 4, Bandla's role will be that of a researcher experience. Besides her. There will be one more woman crew member on the trip -- Beth Moses.
"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," she tweeted on July 2 along with a video of the crew.
In a subsequent tweet, the astronaut said that she was overwhelmed by messages of love. “I really didn't need to tweet this since my friends flooded the feed yesterday with it. I was overwhelmed (in a good way!) by messages of love, unrecognizable capital text, and positivity yesterday. Slowly working my way through them...one platform at a time!” she wrote.
Bandla, started working at Virgin Galactic in 2015 and is currently the vice president of government affairs and research operations of the company.
According to a CNBC-TV18 report, Bandla was born in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur and is in her early 30s. She started working at Virgin Galactic in 2015 and is currently working as the vice president of government affairs and research operations of the company.
Her father Muralidhar Bandla is an agriculture scientist, said the report. He migrated to the United States for better opportunities and is presently working with the US Embassy in India, it said.
She completed her Bachelor of Science in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University. She also holds an MBA degree from The George Washington University.
In the past, she has served as the associate director in the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, an industry association of commercial spaceflight companies.
Bandla also worked as a mechanical engineer at L-3 Communications.
She was also associated with the Telugu Association of North America (TANA), which is reportedly the oldest and biggest Indo-American organisation in the region. A few years ago, TANA honoured her with the Youth Star Award, said the report.
Andhra’s former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu tweeted about Bandla and said, “Indian-origin women continue to break the proverbial glass ceiling and prove their mettle.”
Naidu shared two pictures - one featuring her with all five members of the crew and a solo photo of Bandla. “On July 11th, Sirisha Bandla with Telugu roots is set to fly to space aboard VSS Unity with Richard Branson and the team marking the dawn of the new space age, making all Indians proud!” he wrote.
Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson will travel to the edge of space on Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc's test flight on July 11, Branson's space tourism firm said on July 1. A successful flight by Branson aboard Virgin's VSS Unity spaceplane would mark a key milestone in a race to usher in a new era of private commercial space travel.
It would also mean that Branson would travel beyond Earth's atmosphere ahead of fellow aspiring billionaire astronaut Jeff Bezos, the founder of rival space tourism venture Blue Origin.