Know about Sirisha Bandla, the woman to become the 2nd Indian-born to fly into space!

Sirisha Bandla is the second Indian-born woman to fly into space after Kalpana Chawla. She along with British Billionaire Richard Branson and four others made a journey to space in Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity from Mexico, US. Read ahead to know more about Sirisha Bandla’s education, early life and her journey to space.

Born in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, Sirisha was moved to Houston, Texas at the age of four and was brought up there. She grew up there near Nasa’s Johnson Space Center and always had the desire to become an astronaut. However, her poor eyesight kept her from meeting the requirements of becoming a pilot or astronaut for Nasa.

Her father, B. Muralidhar, and mother, Anuradha both work for the US Government. Sirisha’s elder sister, Pratyusha Bandla, is a Biological Science Technician in the United States. Young Sirisha flew alone from India to Texas at the age of four with a stranger. Although her parents knew the person well, he was a complete stranger to her. As per Reuters, Sirisha’s grandfather shares that “from the beginning, she was fascinated towards the sky, looking at the sky, space, how to enter space and what is there”.

She pursued a Bachelor of Science (B. Sc.) from Purdue University, Indiana, in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering (2006–2011). Post that, she pursued an MBA degree from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.(2012–2015). Sirisha was determined and decisive as to what she wanted from life. She knew she wanted to fly to space and was extremely passionate about it. The fact that her eyesight was a con never stopped her from striving to achieve her dreams.

Her parents proudly credit all her achievements to her determination. They gave her all the freedom to chase anything and everything she wanted to. Her obstacles couldn’t win over her unstirred determination to achieve her dreams. She started her career at ATA Engineering as a Design, Test and Analysis Co-operator. After working there for about three years, she joined as a Mechanical Engineer at L3 Communications Integrated Systems. She then rose to become an Associate Director at the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) in 2012 in the space policy department. In 2015, Sirisha finally joined the Virgin Galactic as a Government Affairs Officer.

Within two years, she was promoted at Virgin Galactic as Business Development & Government Affairs Manager. After that, she was also made the Director of Washington Operations at Virgin Orbit. Sirisha was made the Vice President of Government Affairs of Virgin Orbit this year. Today, she is also one of the board of directors of the Future Space Leaders Foundation and the American Astronautical Society.

The Second Indian-born Woman To Fly Into Space

Sirisha Bandla, became the second Indian-born woman to fly into space when she joined Richard Branson and four others on Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed suborbital test flight. On July 11, 2021, Bandla and crew flew into the edge of space from New Mexico after a 90-minute delay due to bad weather. The spaceplane, Unity22, completed its mission in 1 hour 30 minutes making Bandla the second Indian-born woman to fly into space.

Sirisha shares, “… I took a very unconventional way to go to space and I do believe that a lot of people are going to be able to experience this. That is why we are here.” In 2004, Richard Branson started Virgin Galactic with an aim to fly private citizens to the edge of space. The trips permit the passengers to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and observe the curvature of Earth.

About her experience on return, Bandla shares with the NBC News, “I am kind of still up there but it’s so glad to be here. I was trying to think about a better word than incredible but that is the only word that comes to my mind … Seeing the view of Earth is so life-changing but also the boost the rocket motor kicking in. The whole trip to space and back is just amazing!”

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