Sirisha Bandla was joined by British billionaire Richard Branson and four others on SpaceShipTwo Unity.
Indian-American astronaut Sirisha Bandla created history on Sunday by flying to space as part of the Virgin Galactic’s first fully-crewed suborbital test flight. The aeronautical engineer was joined by British billionaire Richard Branson and four others on SpaceShipTwo Unity.
The team made the journey to the edge of space from New Mexico, USA. With this, the 34-year-old became the third woman of Indian origin, after NASA astronauts Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams, to fly to space. The feat was celebrated by people across the globe and back home in India. For instance, the official account of the US Embassy in India shared a photo of Ms Bandla and described her to be “inspirational”.
The tweet read, “Congratulations to Indian American astronaut Sirisha Bandla on becoming the third Indian-origin woman after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams to fly into space. You are an inspiration to all, Sirisha! ” along with the hashtag, “Women in STEM.” STEM refers to the academic disciplines that include science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The post was quote-tweeted by Minister of Education Dharmendra Pradhan who stated that Ms Bandla’s achievement will prove to be an inspiration for young girls across the globe. He said, “From Guntur to the edge of space, Sirisha Bandla’s feat will inspire young girls across the globe to break the glass ceiling and define new possibilities,” referring to the aeronautical engineer’s roots in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh. He further wrote, “Congratulate the team of Unity22 and India-origin astronaut Sirisha for the new milestone in commercial space travel.”
People reacted to the tweet with congratulatory messages and praised Ms Bandla for her achievement.
On the flight, Ms Bandla was astronaut No 004 and her role was titled Researcher Experience. Having reached an altitude of about 88 kilometres over the New Mexico desert, the crew was able to see the curvature of the Earth. They made a descent back to Earth after experiencing a few minutes of weightlessness. Speaking about the experience to NBC News, she said, “I was trying to think about a better word than incredible but that is the only word that can come to my mind… Seeing the view of Earth is so life-changing…”
Ms Bandla, who was born in Guntur, moved to the US at the age of four. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Purdue University in 2011, she obtained a Masters degree in Business Administration from George Washington University in 2015.