Indian-origin Sirisha Bandla will become the second Indian-born woman after Kalpana Chawla to fly into space later this month. Bandla will be one of the six people aboard travelling to space in ‘VSS Unity’ of Virgin Galactic, scheduled to blast off to space on July 11 from New Mexico.
As a part of the six-member crew alongside the founder of Virgin Galactic Richard Branson, Bandala’s role will be that of a researcher.
She added, “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!”
Bandla reportedly joined Virgin Galactic in 2015 and is currently working as the Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations at the spaceflight company.
The space mission, Unity22, with Virgin Galactic, was announced on July 2. The mission will have 2 pilots, Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, and 4 mission specialists, Beth Moses, Colin Bennett, Sirisha Bandla and Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic. This will be Virgin Galactic’s fourth flight to space, on July 11, subject to weather conditions.
Sirisha Bandla, a girl, was born in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur and grew up in Houston, Texas. She started working at Virgin Galactic in 2015. She is a graduate in aeronautical engineering from Purdue University and also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Georgetown University.
Before working at Virgin Galactic, she worked as an aerospace engineer in Texas, following which she had a job in space policy at the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF). Her parents are US residents.
Virgin Galactic is a British-American spaceflight company that operates in the United States. It was founded by billionaire Richard Branson who also founded Virgin Group and therefore Virgin Group also retains a 24% stake in the spaceflight company. Virgin Galactic is developing commercial spacecrafts and aims to provide suborbital space flights to tourists who wish to travel to space.
Taking to Twitter, the 34-year-old aeronautical engineer shared she was “incredibly honoured” to be part of the crew.
“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,” she posted.
Branson and Bandla will be joined by Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses and lead operations engineer Colin Bennett on the flight. Pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci will fly the VSS Unity spacecraft.