In a moment of pride, Sirisha Bandla will become the second Indian-origin woman to fly to space. The 34-year-old aeronautical engineer is one of the five astronauts who are embarking on a journey to space aboard ‘VSS Unity’ of Virgin Galactic, which is scheduled to take off on July 11 from New Mexico for the Unity 22 Mission. As astronaut number 4, she is going to serve as a researcher experience.
‘Incredibly honoured’, says Sirisha Bandla
Sharing the tweet posted on the official handle of Virgin Galactic, Sirisha Bandla wrote, “I am so incredibly honoured to be a part of the amazing crew of Unity 22, and to be a part of a company whose mission is to make space available to all. Acknowledging the tweets that were floating in her name, in a subsequent post, the Indian-born added, “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!”
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
Born in Andhra Pradesh, Bandla grew up in Houston, Texas. Bandla graduated in aeronautical engineering from Purdue University and also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Georgetown University. She started working with Virgin Galactic in 2015. Before that, she used to work in space policy at the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) and as an aerospace engineer in Texas.
It is pertinent to mention here that the first Indian-origin woman to achieve the feat was Kalpana Chawla.
Unity 22 Mission of Virgin Galactic
The “Unity 22” mission which is all set to take off on July 11 will be the twenty-second flight test for VSS Unity and the Company’s fourth crewed spaceflight. It will also be the first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists in the cabin, including the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson, who will be testing the private astronaut experience.
“I’ll be evaluating the Virgin Galactic founder. I am so proud to have this remarkable crew of mission specialists and pilots by my side as we fly into space,” Branson said in the crew announcement video the company put out today. “This July, our dream will become a reality, and we’re really excited to share that moment with you all. And when we return, I will announce something really exciting, something very exciting, to give more people a chance to become astronauts, because space does belong to us all.”
In addition to Branson, the crew will be made up of mission specialists Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor, who will serve as cabin lead and test director for the mission; Virgin Galactic lead operations engineer Colin Bennett, who will evaluate equipment, procedures and the experience during the mission; and Sirisha Bandla, the vice president of government affairs and research operations at the company, who will evaluate the research experience aboard the mission with an experiment from the University of Florida.
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