Everything to know about Virgin Galactic's Indian-origin astronaut Sirisha Bandla
Following in the footsteps of legendary astronauts Rakesh Sharma, Kalpana Chawla, and Sunita Williams, Indian-origin aeronautical engineer Sirisha Bandla is all set to fly to space. The 34-year-old is one of the six astronauts to blast off from New Mexico aboard Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spacecraft, including company founder Richard Branson. Here's everything you should know about her.
Bandla was born in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh and was raised in Houston, Texas. She graduated from Purdue University in 2011 with a degree in aeronautical engineering. Subsequently, she pursued a post-graduate MBA program at George Washington University in 2015 before joining Virgin Galactic. She is currently the Vice-President of Government Affairs at the British-American spaceflight company.
On June 2, Virgin Galactic CEO Branson announced that the VSS Unity will take to the skies on July 11, days before Amazon boss Jeff Bezos's similar flight in a Blue Origin spacecraft. With the Unity 22 mission, Bandla will become the first Telugu person, the second Indian-born woman, and the fourth Indian-origin astronaut (after Chawla, Sharma, and Williams) to fly to space.
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!— Sirisha Bandla (@SirishaBandla) July 2, 2021
Bandla's 85-year-old paternal grandfather from Andhra Pradesh, Dr. Ragaiah told ANI on Sunday, "I am overwhelmed with joy and happiness that my second granddaughter is going to space. She has been very brave right from the beginning and is a very strong decision-maker." Dr. Ragaiah also wished for Bandla's successful and safe return to Earth after the completion of her journey.
According to Virgin Galactic, Bandla's role as a mission specialist entails "evaluating the human-tended research experience using an experiment from the University of Florida that requires several handheld fixation tubes that will be activated at various points in the flight profile." She will be accompanied on the mission by Virgin Galactic's chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett, and Branson himself.
The Unity 22 mission will be piloted by Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci aboard the VSS Unity with CJ Sturckow and Kelly Latimer flying the VMS Eve. This crewed mission will be a milestone that would pave the way for the company's plans to fly paying passengers to space safely. Two test flights will follow before Virgin Galactic commences commercial service in 2022.