Beginning of Space Tourism: Indian-born woman Bandla reaches space on board Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity 22

Beginning of Space Tourism: Indian-born woman Bandla reaches space on board Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity 22

Hummingbird News Desk

HYDERABAD, 11 JULY: Indian-origin aeronautical engineer Sirisha Bandla took off for space today onboard the Virgin Galactic passenger rocket plane. Her family, including her grandfather, watched the live telecast of the launch at Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh.

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Born in Guntur, Sirisha Bandla (33) is the second Indian-born woman in space and the fourth Indian to ever achieve the feat after Rakesh Sharma, Kalpana Chawla, and Indian-American Sunita Williams.

The Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft reached the 100-km altitude that marks the entry into space after taking off from Spaceport America in New Mexico and returned to the base after a flight of about 90 minutes.

Astronaut 004 Bandla, accompanied by Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson and two other crewmates and two pilots touched the space mark.

Before the flight Branson signed himself dramatically as Astronaut 001 and gave the Astronaut 004 rank to Bandla, 34.

During the space flight, Bandla was scheduled to conduct experiments designed by the US government’s pioneer space agency, NASA involving plants in microgravity.

Bandla, the Virgin Galactic Vice President for Government Relations, is an astronautical engineer by training.

Bandla joined Virgin Galactic in 2015 as government affairs manager and has since risen through the ranks while also handling Washington operations for Virgin Orbit, which recently delivered a satellite in space using a Boeing-747 plane.

A graduate of Purdue University, she has a Masters degree in Business Administration from Georgetown University.

Before her flight, she said on an interview on a Virgin Galactic broadcast that her adventure was an “incredible opportunity to get people from different backgrounds, different geographies and different communities into space”.

The others on the VSS Unity flight were Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor and Colin Bennett, the lead operations engineer which was piloted by former Royal Air Force test pilot Dave Mackay and former NASA Space Shuttle Commander Michael Masucci.

The spacecraft was carried by a twin-bodied carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, for the first 15.5 km on its way to space before being launched for the final leg.

The launch was delayed by about 90 minutes because stormy weather overnight delayed the flight preparations.

But unlike other astronauts, Bandla did not go into orbit and her flight was a short one to demonstrate the capability of Branson’s space programme, a breakthrough in the commercialisation of space travel by private entrepreneurs. It is the beginning of space tourism, said Branson.

Branson beat his business rival, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who is set to take off on July 20 on board his space company Blue Origin’s spacecraft.

It was a space race between the maverick British billionaire, the global American entrepreneur Bezos and Elon Musk, the developer of the Tesla electric vehicle, vying for domination of the multi-billion-dollar private space business that would range from tourism and research to commercial and government satellite deployment.

Andhra Pradesh Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan took to Twitter to wish success to Sirisha Bandla. He said, “The Governor wished all success to Ms. #SirishaBandla, who is first Telugu girl and third Indian-origin woman to head to space.”

“Governor Sri Biswa Bhusan Harichandan congratulated Ms. #SirishaBandla, born in Guntur of Andhra Pradesh, who is set to travel into space today along with five others on board #VirginGalactic’s #SpaceShipTwo Unity to make an historic journey to space from New Mexico, USA,” the Governor added.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on Sunday conveyed his best wishes to Sirisha Bandla and said that it is a proud moment for the state. He wished her good luck for the space mission.

The trajectory of the 34-year-old aeronautical engineer has been amazing and reached great heights and Sirisha, the second Indian-born woman in space, would propel to higher orbits by the successful mission of Unity 22, the chief minister said.

Image Courtesy:@Binged, ShareRadio

Tags: #SirishaBandla #VirginGalactic #SpaceShip #RichardBranson #NewMexico #Unity22

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