She will be joining Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity alongside billionaire Richard Branson.
By Ashima Sethi
Earlier this week, 34-year old Sirisha Bandla made headlines when it was announced she was going to become the second Indian-born woman in history to head to space. Taking flight on July 11th, just a few days from now, Sirisha will be one of six space travellers onboard the VSS Unity of Virgin Galactic. The company’s billionaire founder, Sir Richard Branson, will also be taking off alongside the rest of the team.
Originally born in the Guntur district of India’s Southern state of Andhra Pradesh, Sirisha was brought up in Houston, USA where she developed an early interest in space and space travel. This motivated her to complete her studies in the field, earning an MBA from George Washington University before going on to join Virgin Galactic in 2015.
In addition to being one of the crew members on this exciting voyage, she also works as a Vice President of Government Affairs at the company, where and other policymakers discuss how to develop the commercial space industry. If this trip is successful, it will usher in an abundance of new possibilities for private commercial space travel.
Tweeting about the voyage, she said “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.” Speaking to the media, Sirisha’s 85-year old grandfather and retired scientist Dr. Ragaiah had this to say, “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…she has always had a fascination for the sky.”
In a previous interview, Sirisha also made it clear that representation in the industry was very important to her, stating “Women and people of colour you don’t often see…I don’t often see students that look like myself in this industry just yet.” She hopes her experiences will inspire more people to see their dreams through. Other Indians who have travelled to space include Sunita Williams, Kalpana Chawla, and Rakesh Sharma, the latter being the only Indian citizen to have done so as part of the Soviet Interkosmos programme.