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Meet Sirisha Bandla, the second India-born woman to fly to space

Team StoryWeavers|July 11, 2021, 13:29 IST|

Ever since you began learning about outer space, you would have wanted to visit one day, right? Your dream may come true soon, as the best of minds in the commercial space flight industry are exploring the possibility of providing us a joy ride to space! 

Test flights are currently being conducted by companies like Virgin Galactic of Richard Branson and  Blue Origin of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. 

And in one such test flight to be conducted by Virgin Galactic on July 11, India-born Sirisha Bandla will blast off into space! 

What an epic moment this promises to be! 

She will create history, setting off on her journey to space on Sunday, at  6.30 pm IST. 

This Indian-American astronaut is just the second India-born woman after Kalpana Chawla to enter space.  

As you would certainly remember, Kalpana was a crew member of the space shuttle Columbia. In fact, she went to space twice! Once in 1997, and then in 2003 when she unfortunately died along with her crew members in an accident during the shuttle’s re-entry. 

However, her legacy lives on through Sirisha and many other aspiring astronauts!

Sirisha also joins the league of four Indians or Indian-origin astronauts who have travelled to space. Rakesh Sharma and Sunita Williams are the others.  

Guntur to Houston: A journey of determination

Sirisha was born in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, in 1987. She moved to Houston, USA, when she was 4 years old. 

Her love for space probably began there. Surrounded by NASA and successful astronauts, Sirisha carved her career path inspired by them.

Sirisha Bandla realising her passion today. Photo credits: Sunil Deodhar’s Twitter Feed

In one of her media interviews she mentioned that she decided that she was going to space no matter what! 

According to her grandfather Ragaiah, she was also brave and had a lot of focus and decisive thoughts as a child. Evidently, her focus and determination helped her choose her education and career and excel in it. 

Sirisha went on to complete her Bachelor of Science in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering in 2011 from Purdue University.  Later she earned an MBA from George Washington University in 2015.

Landing her first job after her Masters in Virgin Galactic, she rose from being a manager to her current designation as Vice President of Government Affairs in barely six years!

It takes significant ambition and drive to achieve this, right? 

Besides, she is just 34 years old when she embarks on her first journey to space as part of the Unity 22 mission!

In the journey to space, she would be the fourth member in a select group of six – all employees of the commercial space travel company Virgin Galactic.

Affinity to roots

Sirisha might have moved to Houston early on in her life, but she is still loves  her Indian roots. “I am taking a piece of India with me,” she mentioned in one of her media bytes, when asked about the Unity 22 mission,

She has also admitted to relishing our delicacies like biryani and dal pappu regularly. 

A little about Unity 22 mission

The Unity 22 mission wants to make space available to everyone. It makes travel to space commercial. In other words, soon you may be booking tickets to travel to space boarding the Virgin Galactic flights! 

The company wants to perform three more test flights before opening up the fun ride for all of us. Unity 22 will be the first of those flights. 

So what is Sirisha’s role in the flight?

Sirisha Bandla, part of the 6-member crew in the Unity22 mission Photo Credits: Twitter Feed of Virgin Galactic

Bandla will be one of the six crew members aboard the Virgin Galactic flight, VSS Unity, which will blast off into space from New Mexico, USA. She would be a researcher, studying the experiences that she and the other crew members have. 

What are your views on a possible space vacation in the future? What would you like to do while in space? Tell us in the comments below.

About the Author

Aparna is a mom, singer and dreamer. At BYJU'S, she writes stories about learning for children. She believes in the power of music, especially ghazal, the magic of the universe and happy learners. When not writing or singing, you will find her intensely engaged in conversations about life and the power of words.

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