Sirisha Bandla becomes third Indian-origin woman to fly into space
When I first heard that I was getting this opportunity, I was speechless,’ said Bandla
Joining the distinguished club of Indian-origin women astronauts, Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams, Indian-American aeronautical engineer Sirisha Bandla on Sunday became the third Indian-origin woman to fly into space.
Bandla, who is the Vice President of Government Affairs at Virgin Galactic, joined British Billionare and Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson and five others on board Virgin Galactic's Space Ship Two Unity to make a journey to the edge of space from New Mexico.
Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity, as the spaceplane is named, took off for the 1.5-hour mission above New Mexico following a 90-minute delay due to bad weather.
"I am so incredibly honoured 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," 34-year-old Bandla tweeted days before the flight.
“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!” said in reply to her previous tweet.
“When I first heard that I was getting this opportunity, I was speechless,” Bandla said in a video by Virgin Galactic welcoming her and two other expert crew members Colin Bennett, and Beth Moses joining on the Unity22 test flight.
“Today’s flight was the 22nd test flight of VSS Unity and the first test flight with a full crew in the cabin, including the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson,” said a statement from Virgin Galactic, a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company.
“The crew fulfilled a number of test objectives related to the cabin and customer experience, including evaluating the commercial customer cabin, the views of Earth from space, the conditions for conducting research and the effectiveness of the five-day pre-flight training program at Spaceport America,” it explained.
The US Embassy in India congratulated Bandla on the feat.
"Congratulations to #IndianAmerican astronaut @SirishaBandla on becoming the third Indian-origin woman after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams to fly into space. You are an inspiration to all, Sirisha! #WomeninSTEM," it said in a tweet.